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2002 Clearwater Citizen Survey

Prepared By:
Bordner Research, Inc.
25400 US 19 North, Suite 211
Clearwater, FL 33763
727-797-6552

Prepared For:
Public Communications & Marketing
City of Clearwater

April 2002

BACKGROUND AND METHOD

Recognizing that citizen input is important and affords the best opportunity to reach strategic objectives, the City of Clearwater commissioned Bordner Research to conduct a study of residents having the following primary objectives:

  • To determine citizen perceptions of Clearwater, in general
  • To determine citizen perceptions of city government performance over the past year
  • To determine citizen attitudes with respect to selected budget/financing issues
  • To provide objective data which can be used in planning

To meet these objectives, Bordner Research surveyed via telephone 400 randomly selected residents of Clearwater. Data collection took place April 2 - 18, 2002. All respondents were 18 years of age or older and resided within the city limits of Clearwater. Sampling error was plus or minus 5.0 percent at 95% confidence.

Tables with an asterisk(*) beside the table number indicate questions that permitted multiple answers and consequently column percentages may not total 100 percent.

FINDINGS

General Perceptions of Clearwater

Overwhelming majorities of citizens believe that tourism is important to Clearwater (96%), that Clearwater is a safe place to live (93%) and that Clearwater is a healthy and caring place to live (92%).

SUMMARY TABLE 1*
PERCEPTIONS OF CLEARWATER (%)

 
Agree
Disagree
No
Opinion
Clearwater is a safe place to live
93
7
0
Clearwater is a healthy and caring place to live
92
6
2
Clearwater is good place to make decent living wage
58
32
10
Clearwater values cooperation and dialogue between
citizens and government

68
28
4
Clearwater government is customer service oriented
67
26
7
Tourism is important to Clearwater
96
4
0

* For more detail see Tables 1 - 6 in the Appendix


- Approximately two-thirds think that Clearwater values cooperation and dialogue between citizens and government (68%) and that Clearwater government is customer service oriented (67%). Generally, minorities were more likely than whites to hold both of these opinions (85% to 65% and 81% to 65%, respectively).

- A majority of citizens (58%) believe that Clearwater is a good place to make a decent living wage. Those 65 years of age or older were the most likely not to express an opinion on this issue. Among multi-person households, those with at least one child under age 13 were more likely than those without a child to believe Clearwater is a good place to make a decent living wage (77% to 55%, respectively).

- Six in ten residents (61%) said the quality of life in Clearwater is above average (40%) or excellent (21%). An additional thirty-eight percent (38%) said the quality of life is average. Males and registered voters were more likely than their respective counterparts to say the quality of life in Clearwater is above average. Those residing at the beach were the most likely to rate the quality of life above average or excellent; those residing in South Central Clearwater were the least likely to do this.

Issues Facing Clearwater

- When asked about the biggest issues facing Clearwater over the next five years, one-third (32.8%) of those surveyed said traffic congestion and a little less than twenty percent said traffic calming (16.8%).

- One-fourth (24.8%) thought water issues (especially drinking water and storm water) would be big over the next five years. Females and whites were more likely than their respective counterparts to state this.

- Approximately one in five residents cited downtown redevelopment (21.8%) or budget resources/taxes (21.5%). With respect to the latter citizens seemed to be particularly concerned about "wasteful spending" and the "decline in the tax base associated with the Scientologists."

- Maintenance of the quality of life was mentioned by sixteen percent (16.0%). Many of these residents were concerned about the impact "overdevelopment" was having on the quality of life.

- Approximately fifteen percent felt beach parking (15.5%) and/or beach redevelop- ment (15.0%) would be big issues over the next five years. Those residing on the beach were more likely than those living in other areas of the City to mention both of these issues.

- See Summary Table 2 below for other issues mentioned by a significant number of respondents.

SUMMARY TABLE 2
ISSUES FACING CLEARWATER (%)

Traffic congestion 32.8
Water issues 24.8
Downtown redevelopment 21.8
Budget resources/taxes 21.5
Traffic calming 16.8
Maintaining quality of life 16.0
Beach parking 15.5
Beach redevelopment 15.0
Public safety/crime 12.0
Population growth/management 10.8
Environmental issues 9.3
Education/schools 9.3
Roundabout 8.0
Road maintenance 7.0

Support to Neighborhoods

- Good majorities of citizens believed the City is supportive of its neighborhoods on all issues about which they were queried.

SUMMARY TABLE 3
CITY SUPPORT FOR NEIGHBORHOODS (%)

 
Supportive
Not
Supportive
Traffic enforcement
76.5
21.8
Neighborhood parks
86.8
9.3
Code enforcement
66.3
27.5
Storm water issues
67.6
24.3
Maintenance of streets/sidewalks
73.3
26.3

- Slightly less than ninety percent (86.8%) thought the City is supportive of neighborhood parks, with approximately one-fourth (22.5%) saying it is very supportive.

- Approximately three-fourths said the City is supportive of neighborhoods with respect to traffic enforcement (76.5%) and maintenance of streets/sidewalks (73.3%). Multi-person households with children under age 13 were more likely than those without children in the household to perceive the City as supportive of the latter issue (86.1% to 69.5%, respectively).

- Approximately two-thirds thought the City is supportive of neighborhoods with respect to code enforcement (66.3%) and storm water issues (67.6%). Residents of Southeast Clearwater were slightly more likely than those in other areas to not perceive the City as supportive on storm water issues.

City Performance

- Slightly over sixty percent (62.5%) of residents believed City government has been moving in the right direction in the last year, almost one-fourth (23.8%) thought it has not been moving in the right direction and the remainder (13.8%) had no opinion. Minority residents (77.4%) were more likely than whites (60.2%) to say the City has been moving in the right direction.

- Among those who think the City has not been moving in the right direction, major reasons cited were mismanagement of money (24.2%), progress too slow (17.9%), special interests too influential (16.9%), disagree with priorities (16.8%), roundabout fiasco (14.7%), not listen to citizens (14.7%) and put developers before citizens (11.6%).

- When asked if the City is adequately balancing the needs of infrastructure maintenance/repair with redevelopment, forty-two percent (42.0%) said yes, forty percent (40.3%) said no and eighteen percent (17.8%) did not express an opinion. Residents of Countryside were slightly less likely than those of other areas to say the City is balancing infrastructure and redevelopment needs.

- Among those who felt the needs of infrastructure and redevelopment are not being adequately balanced, a strong majority (83.9%) stated too much attention is being devoted to redevelopment as opposed to too much attention being devoted to infrastructure (16.1%).

- When asked what the City could do a better job at, twenty-one percent of those surveyed (20.5%) said roundabout resolution and approximately one in five (21.6%) gave a response related to traffic (traffic control/flow = 12.3% and traffic congestion = 9.3%). Other areas where the City could do a better job mentioned by a statistically significant number of residents were: downtown revitalization (8.5%), beach/downtown parking (8.0%), road maintenance/improvements (6.8%), fiscal conservatism (5.8%) and listening to citizens (5.5%).

- Sixty-two percent (61.5%) of residents identified at least one thing they think the City does an outstanding job at. Among these residents major responses included police/security (23.6%), parks maintenance/nice (20.3%), keep city clean (14.6%), landscaping/beautiful (13.4%), trash/waste removal (12.2%), fire/ emergency services (11.4%) and provision of basic services (11.4%).

Budget/Financing

- With respect to financing downtown redevelopment almost one-half of those surveyed (48.8%) said they would be most likely to support mostly private funding with limited concessions to developers as opposed to a balance of public/ private funding (37.5%) or mostly public funding financed by tax increases (4.8%). Generally, whites and multi-person households without children under age 13 were more likely than their respective counterparts to support mostly private funding with limited concessions to developers. Almost one in ten residents (8.5%) indicated they do not support downtown redevelopment.

- With respect to financing beach redevelopment residents were even more divided with respect to which financing option they are most likely to support, with forty-one percent (41.0%) supporting a balance of public/private funding and an equal number (40.8%) supporting mostly private funding with limited concessions to developers. Eight percent (8.0%)favored mostly public funding financed by tax increases. Likelihood of supporting a balance of public/private funding declined with increasing age, that is, the older the resident the less likely he/she was to support a balance of public/private funding. Again, one in ten residents (9.5%) indicated they do not support beach redevelopment.

- When asked if it would be acceptable for the City to cut services in order to keep its budget balanced and not raise taxes, a little less than one-half (44.3%) said it depends on which services would be cut, approximately three in ten (31.3%) indicated it would be acceptable and two in ten (20.3%) said it would not be acceptable. Males and those not registered to vote were more likely than their respective counterparts to indicate unequivocally they would accept a cut in services.

Public Input Opportunities

- A majority of residents (52.3%) stated they did not participate in the past 12 months in any of the opportunities for public input about which they were queried. Females, those not registered to vote, those under age 30 and those residing in Southeast Clearwater were less likely than their respective counterparts to have participated in any public input opportunity.

- One-fourth (25.3%) of residents said they accessed the City web site in the last 12 months.

SUMMARY TABLE 4
PUBLIC INPUT PARTICIPATION (%)

 
Participated In
City Commission Meeting
10.0
City Board Meeting
5.8
Crime Watch Meeting
13.8
Townhall Meeting
7.3
Other Public Meeting
11.5
Accessing City Web Site
25.3
Letter to City Official
11.5
Letter to Newspaper Editor
10.0
None of the above
52.3

Satisfaction With Services

- Forty-five percent (45.0%) of the residents surveyed said they had called a City department in the past 12 months. Those residing in Central Clearwater were the most likely to have made a call; those residing in Southeast Clearwater were least likely.

- Almost nine in ten (88.9%) of those making a call to a City department stated they were treated courteously. Unsolicited comments made by some residents who felt they were not treated courteously suggest that employees not returning phone calls may be a prime factor in perceptions of discourtesy.

- Ninety percent (90.0%) of those placing a call had a problem. Of these, slightly more than one-third (35.8%) indicated their problem was not resolved quickly. Registered voters were slightly more likely than those not registered to vote to say their problem was resolved quickly.

- A very strong majority of all residents (90.5%) were satisfied overall with the level of city services they receive.

- Among the 33 residents who were dissatisfied with the level of service received, major reasons offered for dissatisfaction were: city slow resolving problems (24.2%), not resolve problem (21.2%), have to make repeated calls (15.2%), city not customer oriented (12.1%), inconsistent/no code enforcement (12.1%) and poor road maintenance (12,1%).

Facility Usage

- All but eight percent (8.3%) of the residents surveyed had visited during the past year at least one of the City facilities about which they were queried.

- Citizens use city facilities, particularly the library and parks. Almost four in five of the residents surveyed (79.0%) said they visited the library in the past year. Two-thirds (67.3%) visited Coachman Park and a majority (57.5%) visited a park other than Coachman in the past year.

SUMMARY TABLE 5
CITY FACILITIES VISITED PAST YEAR (%)

 
Visited
Library
79.0
Coachman Park
67.3
Other park
57.5
Recreation Center
42.5
Marina
38.8
Jack Russell Stadium
20.0
Airpark
11.8
Sailing Center
9.8
None of the above
8.3


- Females were more likely than males to have visited the library in the past 12 months (83% to 75%, respectively).

- Visitation to Coachman Park declined directly with increasing age. Those residing in Countryside were least likely to have visited Coachman Park. Those 65 years of age or older were also the most likely not to have visited another park in the past 12 months.

- Those residing on the Beach were the most likely to have visited the Marina and the Sailing Center.

- Males were more likely than females to have visited Jack Russell Stadium (27% to 14%, respectively).

- Among mainland residents, one in five (20.7%) did not visit the beach during the past 12 months. Not visiting the beach tended to increase with age. About one-third (34.3%) of mainland residents visited the beach 1 to 5 times in the past year; eleven percent (11.0%) visited it 50 or more times. (Mean = 13.9; Mode = 5.0)

OVERALL CONCLUSION

It is clear from the data that Clearwater is held in high regard by its citizens. Strong majorities of residents believe that Clearwater is a safe, healthy and caring place to live that offers a quality of life that is above average or excellent. Nine in ten are satisfied overall with the level of City services received. Good majorities think the City is supportive of its neighborhoods on a wide range of issues. In the resident mind the most outstanding features of Clearwater appear to be the cleanliness and beauty of the City, the well maintained parks with their concerts and other events, and the quality of performance of the police and fire departments.

Residents are fully aware that Clearwater has a number of issues it will need to address over the coming five years, most notably issues related to traffic, water, downtown and beach redevelopment, budget resources and maintaining the quality of life. While six in ten residents believe City government has been moving in the right direction over the past year, some expressed concern among other things about "wasteful spending", the slow pace of progress, the influence of special interests on decisions, the roundabout "fiasco" and the responsiveness of city officials to citizen wishes. Residents appear to be about equally divided on whether or not the City is adequately balancing the needs of infrastructure with those of redevelopment, with most of those who think there is not a balance believing more attention is being placed on redevelopment rather than infrastructure. Major areas in which the City could do a better job identified by residents included traffic control/flow, roundabout resolution, downtown revitalization, beach/downtown parking, road maintenance/improvements, fiscal conservatism and listening to citizens.

Public opinion is split with respect to how both downtown and beach redevelopment should be financed. Some favored a balance of public and private funding while others favored mostly private funding. Generally residents are slightly more likely to be willing to support mostly private funding with limited concessions to developers to finance downtown redevelopment than they are to support this option for financing beach redevelopment. Mostly public funding financed by tax increases appears to be an unacceptable option to most residents. For the most part residents appear to be unwilling to accept a cut in services in order to keep the City budget balanced and not raise taxes. Some reject this idea outright while many others say their opinion on the issue would depend on their agreement with the services that would be cut.