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Monday
Apr092012

Interpreting the 2012 Bexley Community Survey

The City of Bexley, in partnership with Capital University, recently sent out a resident survey to 744 randomly selected households in Bexley.  The survey asked a variety of questions about residents’ perceptions regarding the quality and value of services residents received from the City, and also asked some questions on more current topics of interest, such as whether residents would be interested in the city providing video of council meetings, or whether or not the city should allow the serving of alcohol at Jeffrey Mansion during special events.  

Of the 744 surveys that were delivered, 235 were completed and returned, providing an unusually high and statistically significant response rate of 32%.  One of the interesting aspects of this survey is the fact that it asked many of the same questions that were asked by Professor Bruning and his students in an earlier community survey that was collected in 2005.  This continuity has given us a good opportunity to analyze changes, if any, in resident opinion and perspective over the past seven years.  

So what can we learn from the community survey?  First, let’s talk about the positives.  The survey showed that resident satisfaction with their “association with Bexley” has increased over the seven year period and is now at 95% - a number which, by any account, is very positive.  And the percentage of residents that say the city has “met” or “exceeded” their expectations has increased on both counts, while the percentage saying it has “fallen short” has decreased.  Likewise, the city continued to score high points on the effectiveness of city services, particularly in the case of the police and recreation departments.  

In fact, the city scored positively on every survey question across the board.  But after reading through the results and accompanying resident comments, I think some areas emerge where there is definite room for improvement.  I want to talk a little bit about where those areas are, and how the City of Bexley will be working to make improvements in those areas.

In the area of communication and government transparency, while the City still received overall positive results, the number of residents dissatisfied was higher than in other areas, and comments provided cast more insight into how some residents felt the city wasn’t adequately communicating or being sufficiently transparent.  The City is in the process of instituting several communications initiatives that should really help residents who don’t feel connected to the City’s processes, including a redesigned www.bexley.org with easier access to content and greater connectivity to the city’s social networking efforts (this will launch in a week or two), as well as an email communication system to provide regular updates to interested residents.  In the meantime, the city’s Facebook page continues to grow; with over 2,300 subscribers, the page provides an easy way for residents to learn about what is going on in the city and to stay connected.  We’re working on a signage system to let residents know about building department applications, and designing a workflow where better and more timely information is posted to the city’s website regarding roadwork and other infrastructure projects.  

We’re also working hard to make the city’s decision-making process more clear.  While minutes and agendas for city council and city commission meetings have been posted to Bexley.org for several years, the speed with which they are posted has not always been consistent, and the public documents have been somewhat hard to find.  To address these shortfalls, the city is changing to a new system that will allow for speedier posting of meeting documents, and will also provide video of city council meetings.  Meanwhile, links to all public documents will be prominently displayed on the new website.  The best part about all of these new initiatives is that they are being done at minimal cost, and some solutions will even result in long-term savings.    

Code enforcement was also a clear concern in the survey.  While there is certainly a balance to be struck between being lax about city code and and being overly controlling, it is fair to say that code violations in Bexley need to be more consistently and more promptly addressed.  As we work on making sure we have the standards and systems in place to do this, we also need to think of more positive ways we can address code enforcement.  To that end, we’re working on a program to encourage community volunteerism to help out residents who aren’t physically capable of maintaining their properties, by connecting those in need with residents who have volunteered to help them out.  

Many thanks to the residents who participated in the survey, and please know that we’re always open to constructive feedback and opportunities for improvement.  Beyond learning about what we need to do better, the 2012 Bexley Community Survey consistently reinforces this message: there’s a lot that the city is doing right - keep doing it right.  We hear you loud and clear - resident safety and maintaining quality city services are of the utmost importance - let’s keep this at the forefront as we continue to work towards preserving and enhancing the Bexley experience.