City survey: Top scourge still traffic …

ThisWeek News – July 27, 2016

… but many uneasy about tax hike to ease jams; survey shows slip in satisfaction with Powell leadership

A recent survey suggests a majority of Powell residents are dissatisfied with traffic in the city — but not yet willing to say they would support a tax increase to alleviate it.

Traffic continued to be a hot topic in the city’s fifth biennial community attitudes survey. Saperstein Associates interviewed a random sampling of 400 registered voters in the city between May 12-23 and revealed the results last week.

According to the survey, 65 percent of residents are dissatisfied with city officials’ efforts to manage the flow of traffic in Powell. While a majority of Powell residents have expressed dissatisfaction with traffic in each of the past five surveys, Martin Saperstein, the firm’s president, said the past two surveys reveal a “change in intensity” for the worse.

Saperstein said something happened in the past five years to further exacerbate residents’ negative feelings about traffic.

Councilman Tom Counts said he thinks the change coincides with increased development and infrastructure work in the city after the recession of the late 2000s. He said major road closures for projects necessitated by increased development likely annoyed residents over the past five years.

“Growth of any type, construction of any type increases dissatisfaction,” he said.

Even with the angst over traffic, it remains murky whether residents would approve some form of tax hike to help relieve traffic congestion.

Asked to rank the highest priority for future capital projects in the city, 54 percent of respondents named traffic-reduction improvements near downtown.

When asked if they would support a tax increase to pay for additional capital improvements, 24 percent of residents said they would. While 20 percent of respondents said they were “very unlikely” to support a tax increase, 55 percent said they would consider it with “an open mind.”

Saperstein said it is not clear from the results whether a hypothetical campaign to raise taxes would be successful. He said the details, such as the size of the increase and form of the tax, could be the deciding factors.

“The offer on the table makes the difference,” he said.

Although a majority of residents said they were dissatisfied with traffic, 95 percent said the city is an “exceptional” or “better than average” place to live.

The survey found 74 percent of residents think the city is “heading in the right direction” — down from 80 percent in 2014 and 88 percent in 2012.

According to the survey, 66 percent of residents are very or somewhat satisfied that Powell City Council members listen to residents concerns — down from 69 percent in 2014 and 73 percent in 2012.

Saperstein said he would suggest council members conduct informal listening sessions with city residents outside of the more-formal setting of council meetings.

Powell Mayor Brian Lorenz said he is open to finding new ways to seek out the opinions of residents.

“It’s kind of disheartening to hear these comments that people don’t feel that council is listening to them,” he said.

Multiple council members noted the surveys took place before the city conducted its first public workshop as part of the Keep Powell Moving campaign. Officials expect to hold more events in the future to get residents’ feedback on potential strategies for easing congestion near the city’s downtown.