Survey: Tempe residents happy but want to feel safer - East Valley Tribune: Tempe

Survey: Tempe residents happy but want to feel safer

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Posted: Saturday, March 10, 2012 7:00 am

Tempe residents are happy with their quality of life, but they want the city to make them feel safer and crack down on private property owners whose land is shabby.

The city’s annual satisfaction survey found Tempe residents are more pleased with their community than citizens in other places. Eight-six percent gave positive marks to the city’s quality of life and 87 percent liked the city’s image, according to the Kansas-based ETC Institute.

Ninety percent were happy with city services, compared with 57 percent of residents nationwide.

The company has surveyed residents for several years and found Tempe one of the happiest communities its researched, said Chris Tatham, ETC’s executive vice president. The city’s ratings remained high even as most communities saw 2 percent to 3 percent drops in satisfaction as cash-strapped governments have cut services.

Tempe has also slashed spending. Mayor Hugh Hallman said the city has kept satisfaction high by measuring satisfaction levels against how much residents say they value those areas.

“The goal is to make sure that we’re allocating resources to things that are important and that we need to do a better job on,” Hallman said.

Tempe is far above national averages in satisfaction with transit, sidewalks, trails and trash pickup. Residents want the city to focus on safety as well as commercial property owners and homeowners who don’t maintain their buildings. Tatham said surveys in other cities show Tempe would likely see an initial drop in satisfaction if the city starts fining more people who violate city codes. Hallman agreed.

“You get a double whammy there — the person who doesn’t think the house was cleaned up enough and the person who got the ticket,” he said.

City Manager Charlie Meyer said officials will use the survey results to dig deeper into how residents want to improve areas of concern. The survey included the location of respondents to provide information about whether some problems are more localized. For the concern about safety, Meyer said the city will see if that correlates with other findings about a lack of street lights or poorly maintained properties. The problem may have nothing to do with police, he said.

“Maybe all we needed to do was to fix the street lights,” Meyer said.

The survey included 803 randomly selected homes that were contacted in October. The margin of error is 3.5 percent.

Only six topics among several dozen changed significantly from prior years. Library services and ethical city practices improved, while recreational programs, street lights and property maintenance declined.

One other concern was public involvement in decision-making, with just 53 percent being satisfied. Tatham said that figure is low almost everywhere.

“People tend to be more likely to be disgruntled about public involvement than they do about other services,” he said.

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