By now, you just might be bored enough to follow this suggestion: Take a break from reading people’s Facebook quiz answers long enough to check out the city of Pueblo’s recent community survey.
The document is available online from the home page of the city’s website, at https://www.pueblo.us/DocumentCenter/View/26250/2020-Pueblo-Survey-Report. While it’s a bit on the long-ish side at 250 pages, there’s plenty of interesting information in there. And, to put it mildly, a lot of the findings should be of concern to the people who run our city government.
ETC Institute, a Kansas-based firm, conducted the survey of 480 randomly selected households within the city limits earlier this year. The results were released this month, just days before the coronavirus took over the news cycle.
Although no one could have wished for this set of circumstances, city officials should be thankful the survey results were overshadowed by current events. Because the people who participated in the survey were brutally honest about Pueblo’s shortcomings.
Assuming the respondents are representative of the city’s general population, city officials should have a lengthy “to-do” list of areas to improve once life has gotten back to normal.
To be clear, there are some areas in which local residents seem to be very satisfied with city services. About 85 percent are happy with fire and emergency medical response services. About 59 percent have favorable overall impressions about the parks and recreation department. And about 58 percent are generally happy with police services.
But with regard to other questions about police protection and public safety, the answers get a little more complicated. About 88 percent of respondents said they feel safe in their own neighborhoods during the daylight hours. At night, that figure drops to 60 percent, a 16-percent decline from what respondents said in the city’s survey in 2010.
And 76 percent of respondents said there are parts of town where they don’t feel safe. In the past, this editorial board has criticized out-of-towners for criticizing Pueblo’s crime rate, saying their perceptions about crime here didn’t always match reality. However, from this survey, it’s obvious out-of-towners aren’t the only ones with negative perceptions about crime and public safety here.
Overall satisfaction with the quality of life in Pueblo has taken a dip over the last 10 years, too. About 44 percent of respondents in the most recent survey said they’re satisfied, compared with 61 percent in the survey conducted 10 years ago.
Only 40 percent of respondents were satisfied with the overall quality of city services. About 31 percent were satisfied with the city’s efforts to communicate with its residents. Only 21 percent are satisfied with the effectiveness of the city’s economic development efforts. And only 9 percent approved of the city’s efforts to demolish and remove vacant buildings.
As a follow up on that last finding, about 58 percent of respondents said they would be “likely” or “very likely” to support a sales tax increase to pay for demolition of abandoned homes, which is pretty telling in a community that’s as fiscally conservative as ours.
Those are just a sampling of some of the troubling numbers among the survey findings. Given the situation at hand, city leaders probably aren’t going to spend much time worrying about them right now. Understandably, they’re focused on getting the city through a crisis.
However, at some point hopefully in the not-too-distant future, this crisis will end. Some of us are longing for a return to the way things were. But according to those survey respondents, going back to the status quo in Pueblo isn’t really a satisfactory option.