Citizen survey provides valuable insight to city leaders
By Colin Killian, Public Communications Manager
When I was a kid, I adored sports statistics. Batting averages, shooting percentages, passing efficiency – you name it, I ate it up. I never dreamed I would someday be just as enamored by the vast array of statistical data in your average citizen survey.
National Service Research conducted the City of College Station’s survey in April, and we presented the 71-page summary report to the city council Thursday night. About 950 pages of the raw survey data sit on my desk.
What kind of stat nerd would spend hours of his life pouring over this stuff? Yep, this guy.
And despite what you might think, some of the numbers are pretty interesting, especially when compared to the rest of Texas.
In sports, a .325 batting average may be impressive, but what if the player only ranks 50th in the league? What if he hits .300 but ranks 8th? We compare sports statistics to give context to how athletes perform. Cities do the same thing with citizen surveys to achieve a similar context.
We had an outstanding response with 1,236 residents participating. All surveys and polls have flaws, but with a margin of error of +/- 2.8 percent, we’re confident the results of this survey fairly reflect the views of our population.
We conduct these surveys periodically as part of the city council’s strategic plan, so we’re able to measure and compare our performance over time. Before this year, our most recent surveys were in 2016 and 2012.
The 2019 survey also compares us to Texas cities that have conducted similar surveys in the last two years. We stacked up well against our peer cities in the state (those within 60,000 of our population of 122,000) and Texas cities overall.
What did the survey show?
On the affirmative side, about 8 of 10 residents rate the overall quality of city services and our water, wastewater and electric services as good or excellent. We’re also pleased that 85 percent give the city’s customer service a positive rating.
In addition, about 9 out of 10 respondents rated our community and their neighborhood as an excellent or good place to live and raise a family. That same portion would recommend College Station as a place to live.
The problem areas are what you’d expect, led by traffic congestion. Only 24 percent gave us an excellent or good rating for that, but the benchmarks show traffic being a problem everywhere in Texas, which reflects the rapid population growth in our state.
Of course, our police and fire services again rate highly with the public. Since 2016, we’ve had a nine-point increase in the percentage who feel safe in their neighborhoods, despite an 11-point rise in those who feel crime is increasing.
The five most important community characteristics to residents were the ease of car travel around town, the availability of medical and health care facilities, the availability of quality affordable housing, the overall appearance of the community, and job opportunities.
The survey is simply one of many tools that city management and the city council use to provide a high level of service to our residents. While it’s apparent that College Station stacks up well across the board, we also recognize we have many areas that need improvement — and that’s even more valuable to us than the positive ratings.
Check out the complete survey results when you have a chance and let us know what you think.
As the survey illustrates, your opinion is always important.
Colin Killian (@ColinKillian) has been with the City of College Station since 2010 after serving 23 years as associate media relations director for the Texas A&M Athletics Department. Killian has also worked as a reporter and editor for the Corpus Christi Caller-Times and Lewisville News. A native of Hobbs, N.M., he graduated from Texas Tech with a bachelor’s degree in journalism/political science.
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