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Survey says: Mercer Island residents are concerned about traffic, schools

The City of Mercer Island has published its 2010 citizen survey, a biennial poll that goes out to 400 registered voters on Mercer Island. The survey asked questions regarding the quality of life on Mercer Island, from public safety to satisfaction with the school district, city staff, transportation, the Town Center, property taxes and public services. The poll is conducted every two years, with previous data included from as far back as 2004.

In general, the polled residents responded favorably to the dozens of questions asked about life on the Island. Perhaps the question that most accurately sums up residents’ opinions is: “Do you feel things on Mercer Island are generally going in the right direction?” Seventy percent of those polled responded ‘yes,’ up from 65 percent in 2008.

When asked what is the “most important problem facing Mercer Island today,” 19 percent said “traffic/transportation/parking.” This result is consistent with years past. Thirteen percent of those polled said that “Education/school funding” was the biggest problem, followed by 11 percent pegging “overcrowding/overdevelopment/overbuilding” as the most needy area of improvement.

Asked why they responded this way, the residents said that current construction and development on the Island is causing traffic and parking problems. In their opinion, there is too much building and growth on Mercer Island. In the schools category, those polled said that the Mercer Island School District needed more funding and that the classrooms were too crowded.

Several questions were asked on the community’s opinion of City Councilmembers, city staff, police, firefighters and the city’s various other departments. Forty-two percent of those polled said they were in “some favor” of the City Council’s work. This is down slightly from previous years (49 percent in 2008, 46 percent in 2004), although 12 percent said they were in “strong favor” of Councilmembers, which is up two percent from 2008. The “strong unfavor” response also increased by two percent, from 7 percent in 2008 to 9 percent this year.

The Mercer Island Parks and Recreation Department, Youth and Family Services and the Police Department all received 50 to 56 percent of Islanders’ “strong favor” vote. The Fire Department surpassed all other areas in the “strong favor” category with 75 percent.

According to the survey results, Islanders are most satisfied with the city’s response to emergencies. When asked to rate “the job the City of Mercer Island is doing to ensure prompt fire and medical aid call response,” 48 percent of those polled said “excellent.”

Islanders also feel that “the city is doing a good job maintaining its parks, trails and open spaces.” Forty percent of residents rate this work as “excellent” and 50 percent as “good.”

The streets, sidewalks, pedestrian and bike paths, however, are a different matter. According to the poll, only 21 percent of Islanders think the city is doing an “excellent” job of maintaining these areas. Although 44 percent said the city was doing a “good” job, the category earned the highest amount of disapproval with 10 percent saying the city was doing a “poor job.”

As for the Town Center, 47 percent of those polled said they were “somewhat satisfied” with the appearance and condition of downtown Mercer Island. Four percent said they are “very dissatisfied.”

When asked about whether the city of Mercer Island was using tax dollars responsibly, 43 percent of Islanders said the city was doing a “good” job (as compared with 46 percent in 2008), while 30 percent said the city was doing a “fair” job. Twelve percent of Islanders said the city was doing an “excellent” job managing taxes, and 7 percent said it was doing a “poor” job.

The survey was conducted over the phone by EMC Research, from Feb. 23 to 27. The margin of error for the overall results is +/- 4.9 percent at the 95 percent confidence level, which means that if the survey were conducted 100 times, it would produce results within the +/- 4.9 percentage points 95 times out of 100.

The full survey results can be downloaded from the City Council’s agenda page at www.mercergov.org.

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