August 9, 2017

2017 Citizen Survey Establishes Benchmark

Earlier this year the City initiated a broad citizen survey, to get a sense of how we’re doing in providing services and an aggregate view of residents’ sentiments about their community.  The survey was overseen by the University of Houston Master of Public Administration program, which analyzed the findings in a detailed statistical report.  While we did learn some things we can put to immediate use, the real value of this inaugural survey is in establishing a benchmark for tracking our performance over time through periodic future surveys.

To get a statistically appropriate sampling, survey invitations were sent to 1,000 randomly selected households, geographically stratified among the City’s five solid waste service areas.  The response rate from this random sample was 31.6%, which is typical for surveys of this type (20-35%).  Additionally, to accommodate residents who were interested in participating but had not been randomly selected, a second sample group was created for “opt-in” respondents and advertised by announcements in the newspaper, water bill inserts, e-mail blasts, the City website and on social media.  This yielded another 125 responses, for a combined total of 441.  To ensure the validity of the combined sample group given possible self-selection bias, the median scores for each survey question were analyzed and instances noted in which the “opt-in” responses skewed the results.

The survey included 110 general community questions that are commonly used by other cities, concerning city amenities and services, and overall quality of life.  Another 70 questions (plus contingent sub-parts) focused on individual city departments:  Library; Development Services/Code Enforcement; Administrative Services; Public Works; Parks, Recreation and Facilities; and Public Safety.  At the end of the survey, respondents were given an opportunity to provide written comments and feedback.

There weren’t any major surprises, as the survey responses were consistent with the public input we generally receive.  The survey confirmed that residents see Bellaire as a good place to live and raise children, and are on the whole satisfied with their community.  Nearly all respondents — 91% — rated the overall quality of life in Bellaire as “above average” or “excellent.”

One result that stood out among the general community questions is that our residential areas scored higher than commercial, with a demonstrably lower ranking of shopping opportunities, particularly among younger respondents.  Of course we were already aware of that, and this finding further validates one of the major focal points of our Comprehensive Plan.

Department-specific questions produced some helpful insights and highlighted areas for improvement.  For example, solid waste and recycling collection were among the highest rated services across all departments, but other Public Works functions including traffic signals, streets and sidewalks, and drainage somewhat less so.  On the other hand, the survey only confirmed that public safety is a primary reason families choose to live in Bellaire and that satisfaction with both Police and Fire/EMS services remains very high.

As noted, the intent of this first survey was to establish a benchmark against which to compare future responses to the same questions, to measure changes in citizen satisfaction over time.  In addition to the statistical analysis linked above, the raw response data, which was presented back in May along with the open-ended comments, provides a useful format for comparison.  We anticipate following up with the next survey in around 2 to 3 years.