When Lee County commissioners last directly surveyed citizens, the biggest worries were the rapid pace of growth and congestion on the roads.
That was 2002. Unemployment hovered around 4 percent in Lee County, which is 10 percent below the rate just a few months ago.
Almost 12,000 homes were built that year, not the 30,000 that builders got up in the ultimate boom year of 2005, but still a lot more than the 2,124 permitted in 2008.
In 2002 bankers and investors tracked mortgage foreclosures, but the issue barely registered on everyday radars. That’s now just one more unfortunate category that Lee County’s led the nation in.
So those who want to be commissioners think they know what citizens are thinking about.
“Jobs,” said Sonny Haas, who’s running for the District 2 seat currently held by Commissioner Brian Bigelow.
“J-O-B-S. The biggest, most overreaching and critical problem that Lee County and the commissioners face today is jobs,” responded Dick Ripp via e-mail.
Ripp is running in District 2 as well, entered in a Republican primary with Bigelow and Haas.
“I guess it would have to be getting our economy back,” said Debbie Jordan, another District 2 candidate.
Cole Peacock says the county has not been properly focusing on the economy. He said the strategic planning the survey is meant to help guide is long overdue, and the county should run like a business, creating a business-friendly environment.
Peacock and Jordan would face off in a Democratic primary.
On Monday the surveys were being mailed to 1,200 residents. The survey questions were created and the results will be tabulated by the Colorado-based National Research Center, working with the International City-County Management Association.
Questions will track residents feelings about life, activities and the quality of county services. They will track government responsiveness and service, asking responders pointedly what services should be considered for cutbacks.
Some are already lobbying. Environmentalist Carl Veaux sent a blanket e-mail Monday urging anyone who’s among the 1,200 who receive the survey to support Conservation 2020, the property tax-fueled environmental land program.
Commission Chair Tammy Hall said she wouldn’t expect the survey to say the same things it said seven years ago.
“It’s definitely not the same issues,” she said.
Hall said she thinks the county is doing everything local government can do to stimulate the economy, but knows that’s what people are worried about.
“It’s the economy,” said Hall, who is so far unchallenged for her District 4 seat.
“The subcategory is the devaluation of peoples homes, and unemployment is right up there.”
The survey results will help commissioners decide what services to cut and which to keep. The sagging economy cost the county operating budget $187 million this year, and more cuts are expected next year.