City gets high marks in citizen survey

J. Jacob Edel
Mercer Island Reporter

Island residents like how their City Council is running the show. They also love the job the garbage man does, according to a survey of registered Island voters conducted in January.

Ian Stewart, a graduate of Mercer Island High School and now a vice president of Evans/McDonough Consulting (EMC), presented the results of the survey to City Councilmembers last Monday. Stewart stated that Council approval ratings remain high despite a slight drop from two years ago when the study was last conducted. Many residents also said they felt the city was generally going in the right direction.

“That says you are doing a good job,” Stewart told the Councilmembers at their meeting last Monday.

As for Allied Waste, the company that the city contracts for waste management, 86 percent of those surveyed said they were satisfied with the service.

Of the 6,000 phone numbers listed on the Island, EMC called 5,297 at least once and made contact with 1,462 Islanders. The 56-question survey cost $11,000 and consisted of phone interviews from Jan. 24 to 28 during weekend and evening hours. The margin of error was 4.9 points, with a 95 percent confidence interval.

“A lot of times, people weren’t home (979), 18 percent refused the survey, 83 quit during it, and 400 completed the survey,” Steward said. “If you do the survey 100 times, you get the same results 95 times,” Steward said.

During the presentation, Councilmember El Jahncke joked at how the results showed citizens are more satisfied with their garbage men than the Council. However, Stewart said the Council’s rating was high for an elected body.

“These are actually the kinds of marks any city would envy,” city manager Rich Conrad said.

As for additional services sought by Allied Waste, 59 percent were “somewhat” or “very interested” in electronics recycling. Other Islanders showed interest in increased food waste recycling.

Those surveyed indicated transportation and traffic were the biggest problem on the Island, followed by overcrowding and overbuilding. The city’s job of promoting traffic safety and emergency preparedness also received the lowest confidence rating by residents.

“Those were two big heads up for me,” Conrad said. “The city is prepared, and we need to do a better job communicating that. The survey showed much of the citizenry isn’t ready, especially among young people and families. We need to address that.”

Residents also said they felt safe in their neighborhoods and the Town Center. The almost-perfect safety rating is high enough that it concerns the city manager.

“I can’t imagine those numbers in any other community,” said Conrad. “We are in the middle of major metropolitan areas, and it’s astounding that people feel that safe. But it also tells me that maybe residents are not being as cautious as they ought to be.”

Respondents of the survey said their top three priorities continued to be prompt fire and medical aid, crime prevention and protecting the environment. As for the appearance and condition of the Town Center, most Islanders were satisfied, with only a quarter of those surveyed unhappy with it.

“We’re starting to see that the benefits are paying off,” Conrad said. “And we hope to continue bringing in more types of businesses that residents want to shop and dine at.”

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