Survey: Resident satisfaction low as Dallas City Council grapples with public perception
Data from a recent survey shows Dallas residents want the city to prioritize maintenance of city infrastructure and police services. It also shows satisfaction for the direction the city is headed, is at an all-time low.
Those are just some of the findings of the City of Dallas 2023 Community Survey, which was briefed during Wednesday’s council meeting.
The survey, which received around 100 responses per council district, was aimed at collecting data on resident’s perception on several different topics. That includes city services, infrastructure and quality of life.
Just over half of survey participants rated Dallas as “an excellent or good place to live.” But the statistics change drastically when asked about “the overall direction that the City of Dallas is taking.”
That number has gone from just over half of residents who participated in the survey saying they “strongly agree” with the direction of local government in 2014 — to less than 30% today.
While some council members questioned the validity of data based on resident perception overall, at least one expressed concern over how residents had responded the latest survey.
“It’s a statistically valid number,” District 12 Council Member Cara Mendelsohn said during Wednesday’s meeting. “And this is a point of extreme concern for me.”
The survey was conducted by ETC Institute, a consulting and marketing firm and is the eleventh done over the last 18 years.
ETC says “randomly selected” residents had the opportunity to respond to the survey either by mail, online or by phone. Around 10,000 surveys were sent out. Out of those the consulting firm received just over 1,4000 completed surveys.
Participating residents’ information was purchased from a “large list brokerage firm,” according to an ETC executive.
“Overall, your satisfaction ratings are lower this year than your last survey,” ETC Institute Vice President of Community Research Jason Morado said. “And that’s a trend we’ve seen nationwide, so it's not a surprise.”
Some areas of the survey did have some positive highlights. Morado says some of the biggest areas of increased satisfaction include the maintenance of city centers, appearance of city parks and EMT services.
But he says the biggest decreases in resident satisfaction center around air quality, land use and planning and access to essential services — like quality affordable housing.
According to the survey, less than 30% of Dallas residents rate land use, planning and zoning as “excellent” or “good.” And 10% of residents rate maintenance of infrastructure in that same range.
Almost half of responses rated the city’s upkeep of infrastructure — like roads and sidewalks — as poor. Only 4% rated the service as excellent.
Survey respondents rating of crime prevention and police response time has dropped by half since 2014. According to the current data, less than 35% of respondents rated the two categories as “excellent” or “good.”
District 6 Council Member Omar Narvaez says the perception around policing in the city has perpetuated a “narrative that is just completely false.”
Narvaez pointed to the conversation around the police shortage. He says misinformation — both in City Hall and out — around recruiting and retention within the Dallas Police Department hinders them from doing their jobs.
“They’ll make up just these random crazy numbers that make zero sense,” Narvaez said. “And that just makes it even harder for our police force.”
Narvaez admitted the police department does have a shortage of officers. But he says the city needs to rally around the positive aspects of the city — and if it doesn’t Dallas resident’s negative perception of the department will continue.
“Chief Eddie Garcia said we have done it all, there’s nothing more that we can do,” Narvaez said. “Except for hope that more people want to start training to be police officers.”
Mendelsohn agreed that public perception and reality are two different things.
“The perception in my district was that people felt very unsafe,” Mendelsohn said. “But data-wise, my district is the safest.”
'A huge reduction'
There is a nearly 25% decrease in satisfaction in the direction the city is heading, according to the survey. Mendelsohn says the between the most recent survey and past years is “a huge reduction.”
The survey contains one open-ended question that asks residents to identify other “problems in the city.” A selection of responses were picked from every council district.
Nearly every district contained a response centered around lack of infrastructure, ethics at City Hall and inequity across Dallas. One respondent called the division between north and south Dallas, “the tale of two cities.”
When asked about the significant decrease, Morado said this has been a trend nationwide.
“It has gone down each of the last few times we have conducted the survey,” Morado said. “That is something to probably take a closer at to…but I’m not surprised it went down.”
Along with satisfaction with the way local leaders run the city, 24% of residents who took the survey agree that they "receive good value for the" taxes they pay.
That's down from 45% recorded during the 2016 survey.
Moving forward, city officials want to incorporate the data into the next budget session. Many questioned whether they could solve the issues residents brought up in the survey, with allocation of funds — or using the upcoming bond program.
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