Royal OakNovember 27, 2012
Survey helps city chart future course
Rodents, declining revenue, crime lead list of residential concerns
By Chris Jackett
C & G Staff Writer
ROYAL OAK — Results of a recent public opinion survey have provided city officials a glimpse of residents’ concerns and preferred directions for future projects.
JP Piskulich, director of Oakland University’s Public Affairs Research Laboratory, reported his group’s results to the City Commission Nov. 19 while noting that the report’s top goals were “to prioritize, improve service delivery and plan for the future.”
Surveys were mailed to 800 random residents. Of those, 243 (34 percent) replied and 76 (10 percent) were undeliverable or refused. This led to a 6 percent margin of error, but it was enough responses to provide an accurate glimpse of things within that margin.
“We got a lower response rate than we wanted,” Piskulich said. “We were shooting for 50-60 percent. I’m mostly about description and you get to decide what that meaning is in your city.”
The report was broken down into eight parts, and residents’ top three concerns were rodents (32 percent), declining revenue (31 percent) and crime (22 percent). Different aspects of public safety dominated the top three categories in a prioritization of city services.
“Priorities were particularly important,” Piskulich said. “People resonated with things they can see and touch and feel.”
Residents were either “satisfied” or “very satisfied” by the Police Department, with a combined rate of 78 percent. The Fire Department scored at 75 percent. Emergency Medical Services earned a 71 percent approval.
The majority of residents also rated their streets “good” or better and 73 percent said traffic congestion was not an issue.
“You’re going to see a number of tables where you’re going to see 7-8 percent, maybe 10 percent dissatisfied, and those are kind of par for the course,” Piskulich said.
In regard to parks and recreational needs, a swimming pool was among the top three city needs for both indoor (47 percent) and outdoor (33 percent) use. Others included a fitness center (40 percent) and indoor walking/running track (38 percent), and bicycle/non-motorized paths (38 percent) and jogging/exercise trails (36 percent). A nature/conservation center was also in the mix.
About 60 percent of residents thought the city’s tax was about the same as similar communities, while 34 percent said it was a little higher. Many (32 percent) were uncertain of how future improvements for things such as roads should be handled, while 33 percent said there should be no changes.
The survey also touched on communication and satisfaction with City Hall and city services, which received a wide array of generally supportive rankings.
Most residents (79 percent) said their primary means of keeping up with city news is newspapers and news sites, with the Review (37 percent) leading the way. Most (59 percent) said they do not watch the local WROK television channel at all.
“We tend to look at online as the primary mode of communication (and that’s not true),” City Manager Don Johnson said.
The report also covered branding and expectations for the downtown area, which most residents (70 percent) visit for the restaurants.
“The questions do a good job of getting a slice of things I wanted to know when I authorized the expenditure,” Commissioner Jim Rasor said.
The demographics of those who replied were 57 percent women, 24 percent between the ages of 50-59 and 46 percent who have lived in Royal Oak for more than 20 years. Additionally, 83 percent owned their residence and 38 percent had a household income of $51,000-$100,000.
“Residents who live here longest may feel a civic obligation to participate,” Piskulich said. “I felt that we got to a number of specifics that you can really use moving forward.”
The full report is available at www.ci.royal-oak.mi.us/portal/sites/default/files/meetings/City%20Commission/2012/1119-08-1.pdf.