Marco residents to grade their city officials

Citizens survey may be used to compile a city report card

Should Marco hire an outside contractor to conduct a citizens survey?

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Just as parents may find it difficult to assess their children’s education without a school report card, City of Marco Island officials may soon be graded by residents to provide a track of the city’s progress.

City Council will be considering the idea of hiring an outside contractor for under $10,000 to conduct a citizens survey that will offer residents an opportunity to share their opinions of how well the city provides its services.

“You can’t just live in a bubble and believe everything is hunky dory,” says Marco Island’s public information coordinator Lisa Douglass.

Douglass said she wants to hear if the city is failing and where it’s failing, adding that it’s difficult to assess the city’s improvement without a benchmark.

A citizen survey is a kind of opinion poll which asks the residents for their perspectives on local issues, such as the quality of life in the community, their level of satisfaction with local government, and their political leanings on specific policies. Such a survey can be conducted by mail, telephone, Internet, or in person.

A driving force behind the initiative is that resident opinions may be as necessary to local government managers and elected officials as customer surveys are to business executives.

The idea of a citizens survey isn’t new to the city, however past surveys have been minimally successful and new attempts have been “put on a back burner,” Douglass said.

The public information department conducted an anonymous survey that only yielded about 100 responses, and “I don’t consider that successful,” she explained.

One positive of the past survey was that many people reported a desire to be able to learn about city issues on television. That information helped lead to the current broadcasting of City Council meetings on Comcast and Marco Cable, Channel 12.

Douglass said the idea of a survey being conducted by an outside agency was first mentioned by former Marco City Manager Bill Moss. Moss, she said, learned of the survey process while attending a meeting of the International City/County Management Association.

“I think people were skeptical in the past. It’s like the government knocking on your door, saying ‘hi we’re the government and we’re here to help you ... ’ I think an outside consultant will serve as a non-biased liaison,” Douglass said.

The new city manager, Steve Thompson, is also intent upon increasing communication between city officials and residents.

“I have found that constant communication is key to building and maintaining trust with the council and the community ... There should never be a problem with access to information in Marco Island,” he wrote in an e-mail to the Marco Eagle.

The survey may add another line of communication in addition to the new weekly updates already posted on the city’s Web site, cable television and other communication. Thompson said these ideas are part of an overall comprehensive communications strategy to get information to the council and the community.

The National Research Center, Inc., conducts the surveys and maintains a database of over 500 jurisdictions representing more than 40 million Americans, allowing local governments to compare their cities’ results with similar communities nearby or across the nation.

The item is anticipated to hit a City Council agenda by August. Douglass said she would like to hear the public’s general opinions of the idea before then.

The survey is anticipated to cost about $9,600 and she believes the survey results will help improve city government’s efficiency.

City officials will be able to use the data from the citizen surveys to assist them in allocating resources for maximum community benefit and forming strategic plans for community programs and policies.

Douglass said she hopes to see the survey developed with the input of each city program, committee, department and particularly residents.

E-mail Marco Island public information coordinator Lisa Douglass with opinions and ideas about the citizens survey at ldouglass@cityofmarcoisland.com.

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Comments » 5

dc5799 writes:

Because they just love to hire people to conduct survey,s. Marco Island doesn't make a move unless they pay someone to conduct it.

wwaldack writes:

I prefer open communication with the public. It seems to me that questions asked in many polls and surveys are framed in such a way that calls for negative response. I prefer open dialog
through one-on-one conversation or e-mails, what ever is more convenient to the citizen or resident.

$10,000 for a poll or survey could be used for better purposes.

Wayne Waldack
Marco Island City Councilman

blackwidow writes:

Beowulf,

Not all residents are members of MICA nor do all MICA members respond to their surveys.

The value of this survey will depend entirely on what areas are covered and how the questions are posed. As in every poll, things can be arranged to get the answer you want. Perhaps that's the point Mr. Waldack was trying to make ... but who wants to communicate with Wayne Waldack? He castigates everyone who disagrees with him and writes letters to the press condemning them.

The thousands of Marco residents who signed petitions to recall city councilors and subject the city manager to periodic votes of confidence should have told the council that there was discontent, but they refused to see that. Now that the council room has fewer seats than Mackle and much less parking, citizens are encouraged to sit home and watch the circus on TV. Unfortunately, they can't comment from their Laz-Y-Boys.

wwaldack writes:

Blackwidow:
I have never hid behind a fake name to disguise my identity. I have the same legitimate rights granted under the Constitution to Freedom of Speech as you. If I disagree with you or you disagree with me, we have the right to express that disagreement. I have read many blogs that are written where true castigation is expressed.

Disagreement and discussion is part of communication. Having to agree or not being able to disagree is considered dictatorial.

By the way, after reviewing more information on the subject of the survey, I would suggest that the survey shown to me by Lisa Douglas merits consideration.

At this point the survey question has not yet reached City Council where the subject will be brought for open discussion.

I cannot answer how many will respond to the survey. That would be up to the public. I can make the assumption that residents who already take an interest will respond. The real hope would be that this could, should and would be a vehicle for the less vocal and for the non-homesteaded as well.

The fact that the budget will be tight this year is certainly a consideration. The other side to that is while the total cost of the survey is expensive ($9,600 +/-). $9,600 +/- is 0.000534% +/- of a $18,000,000 +/- budget. While every penny is important, would spending $9,600.00 +/- be worth the cost and effort in finding out what the Community wants?

That will be what City Council needs to decide as a body representing the people! At this point I would suggest an open mind, at least until all the facts are on the table.

By the way there are plenty of vacant seats and parking spaces.

Wayne Waldack
Marco Island City Councilman

lauralbi1 writes:

Wayne/Lisa: If in fact you have a survey, then why not post it on the City's web site and have the population fill it out ??

I just do not see any need to spend $10,000 on a survey, no matter what percentage it is of the total budget. There are different ways to do this.

$10,ooo would go a long way to getting grass in Veteran's Park on Site A.
Ed Issler

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