Survey: Folks favor city’s direction

The Delaware Gazette – July 8th, 2015

Marty Saperstein presents the results of a public opinion survey to City Council on Monday.

Ninety-four percent of residents believe that the city of Delaware is heading in the right direction, according to a recent survey.

That percentage was higher than other surveys for Grove City (90 percent in 2013) and Powell (86 percent in 2014).

Marty Saperstein of Saperstein Associates, Inc. presented the findings of his “Community Attitudes Survey” to Delaware City Council before its regular meeting Monday.

Overall, 60 percent of residents consider Delaware a better than average place to live; 28 percent consider it exceptional; while 11 percent consider it OK; and less than 1 percent find it to be disappointing.

In terms of priorities for local public officials, residents listed traffic congestion; education/city schools; street repair; crime/drugs; managing growth; and downtown development. However, “none was mentioned by more than one resident in five or dominated the responses,” Saperstein said.

The survey asked residents about seven potential community initiatives. The top answers or priorities were attracting new businesses and helping existing businesses grow; and making downtown Delaware more vibrant. The other priorities, in descending order, were building new road connections; repairing and repaving more streets; building a parking garage downtown; improving traffic signal timing; and building more bike paths.

Saperstein said it was unusual that the Delaware respondents favored economic development over infrastructure, and that eight out of 10 would even consider paying higher taxes to fund high-priority initiatives. Three of five people felt the pace of commercial and residential development was appropriate.

When asked, “What would you like to see more of in Delaware?” the survey answers included roughly in order of most responses: restaurants, retail stores, shopping, better traffic flow, programs for teens/youth; parks and green space; better jobs; better roads; better parking downtown; bike paths; businesses; recreation facilities/programs; affordable housing; community events; better schools; better health care; senior housing/services; buses/public transportation.

Most of the respondents were pleased with basic city services, with 99 percent either somewhat or very satisfied with fire/EMS; 96 percent with trash removal; 92 percent with recreation centers and facilities; 91 percent with police; 91 percent with water and sewer; 91 percent with parks and recreation programming through the YMCA; and 80 percent with snow removal.

“Most residents are satisfied with city officials in their efforts to improve the quality of life in Delaware, plan for the future, and manage the city’s finances,” Saperstein said. “Fewer residents, though still a majority (80 percent), are satisfied with how city officials listen and communicate.”

The survey said eight of 10 residents were satisfied with how city officials are making Delaware a sustainable city through recycling, energy efficiency, and the use of land and water.

“At least nine out of 10 residents are satisfied with local access to educational opportunities, health care and upscale housing,” Saperstein said. Other areas that received less satisfaction were: access to affordable housing (82 percent); condition of local streets through subdivisions (78 percent); condition of main roads through Delaware (75 percent); timing of traffic signals throughout community (67 percent); access to white-collar jobs (62 percent); community activities for teenagers (62 percent); amount of public parking (53 percent); and the amount of traffic congestion (50 percent).

Among the other findings: Adults have lived in Delaware an average of 19 years, and 63 percent expect to remain in the city for at least the next five years.

The respondents were divided almost equally among the city’s four wards. Sixty percent of the respondents were working full time and 22 percent were retired. Of those that were working full or part time, 58 percent worked in Delaware.

“Excluding family and friends, a plurality of residents get most of their news and information about Delaware from the Delaware Gazette,” was one of the survey findings. However, younger residents favored getting their news in digital formats. Seven out of 10 residents has a Facebook account, and 36 percent have been to the city’s Facebook page; while 16 percent have a Twitter account, and only 5 percent follow the city on Twitter.

The survey was conducted in May by making more than 10,000 calls on landlines and cellphones to reach more than 400 registered voters. The surveys averaged 17 minutes in length. The margin of error is 4.9 percent.

Council is expected to have a work session to assess how the survey results tie in with what council members have identified as priorities.