published: Friday, November 16, 2012
Sutherland wants to survey AP residents
By BARRY FOSTER
AVON PARK - Residents in the City of Charm soon may get asked their opinion on a wide range of topics.
Then again, maybe not.
Saying he has been "discontented about citizen input," Councilman Parke Sutherland has suggested the council look into a citywide canvass of residents to find out what they really think. Sutherland got the idea after speaking with Fort Lauderdale representatives at a recent League of Cities meeting.
"They do it twice a year," he told fellow council members at a Tuesday night session. The council's regular Monday night session was pushed back a day due to Veterans Day.
Fort Lauderdale's semi-annual poll is conducted by the National Citizen Survey - held out as "the premier citizen survey service" of the International City/County Managers Association, the National Research Center and the National League of Cities. Not only will the firm administer a survey of residents, they also analyze and report results. Moreover, the company will customize each survey, if that's what the customer desires, then compare the results with other jurisdictions.
The firm touts "the country's largest and most current database of survey results," so that the customer will get the most precise and useful comparisons.
Sutherland did have some reservations about his brainchild, the primary one was financial. The company wants $10,300 to do the work with $6,300 of the money up front as a down payment.
"The idea is good, but the cost concerns me," he said,
When asked by Mayor Sharon Shuler if the city could do such a survey in house, Sutherland agreed that could be a possibility but noted that senior staff is very busy with city business. Sutherland also hearkened back to the distillation of information as a key service by NCS. However, Sutherland allowed that there might be other vendors that could do the work at a lower price.
But the bottom line was input.
"I want more than just the vocal minority," he said.
When asked what percentage of returns the city could expect, Sutherland could not remember an exact figure. He suggested that it could be as much as 25-30 percent of the total surveys mailed out. He said that as part of the program, postage free envelopes would be provided to encourage participation.
Sutherland suggested another key would be how much council members listened to the results of the survey.
A sample form from the NCS shows the firm uses a standard Likert scale of 1-10, asking respondents to rate such things as quality of life, sense of community, overall appearance, growth and safety issues of the city, there also is a section on the number and quality of municipal services. The final section tries to find out more about the citizens responding to the survey asking about length of residency, economic status, age, sex, race and even voting habits.
Over the past decade there have been numerous visioning sessions, including an extensive effort by the Avon Park Chamber of Commerce to determine the needs and desires of citizens and respond to them in a positive way. Several similar efforts have been mounted by Highlands County commissioners and the Highlands County Economic Development Commission, which included Avon Park as part of the study. To date it has been difficult to tell how many of the recommendations have reached fruition.
After suggesting that city council members could each approach officials of NCS to get a better understanding of the program, council members agreed to let Sutherland research other vendors independently.
Vocal minority (by: Sam Schultz - 11/17/2012)
Everyone knows the vocal minority. They are the ones that complain about everything yet never do anything constructive to let AP succeed. Many of the complainers don't even live in the city or have shady businesses that take advantage of the residents that don't have a voice.
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