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For the third consecutive year, Rohnert Park has released a community survey to glean information from residents on what is important to them and ways the city can be improved. The survey process was first implemented in 2016 as a way for the city to adhere to their strategic plan, which called for participative leadership.
“We found it very useful for multiple purposes,” says Don Schwartz, Public Information Officer and Assistant City Manager for Rohnert Park. “One, it tells us how our residents think how we are doing in terms of serving them. It’s really great to have that feedback. A large majority of the residents last year and the year before expressed that they felt the city is headed in the right direction and that’s encouraging. It helps us set priorities on funding and projects that we work on.”
Last year for example, the city received a lot of feedback on the survey regarding poor road quality and potholes. So funding was prioritized in the budget making process to directly address those concerns. Residents also asked for non-chain restaurants, which gave the city the extra motivation to approve the new Bear Republic restaurant. Even for issues that the city would be working on regardless, knowing what the community wants helps them prioritize projects.
Encouragingly, participation in the survey is steadily rising. The first year over 1,000 people responded and last year that figure more than doubled, with over 2,400 residents participating. When the survey was released last week, over 800 responses were submitted within hours.
“To get 2,400 responses on a population of 42,000, we know it’s not entirely scientifically random, but we have a high degree of confidence that we’re getting accurate feedback from our residents,” says Schwartz. “We hope for more this year.”
While many of the questions on the survey are the same as last year, some have been tweaked to correspond to current needs. For example, one new question asks whether boats, RVs and trailers have been a problem on residents’ streets to determine if that is an issue the city needs to proactively address.
The survey is one of several tools the city is using to get resident feedback and input. They also use social media, town hall meetings, newsletters and their website to reach local citizens. However, they have found the survey to be an efficient tool to reach many people easily, and have found the feedback across the multiple tools fairly consistent. In fact, they may expand the use of surveys throughout the year to gauge residents’ opinions in other matters.
“It’s been such a valuable tool for us that I think we’ll continue [doing the survey in future years],” says Schwartz. “We’re planning to use surveys more, for example for our general plan which is very important for the future of the city long term – how we’ll grow, where we’ll grow. It’s a lot easier for somebody to complete a survey than it is to come to a meeting. We always welcome people to come to our council meeting or commissions, or anything that we’re hosting.”
To participate in the 2018 Community Survey, visit www.rpcity.org/survey.