The City of Paducah has contracted again to use the National Citizen Survey through the National Research Center, Inc. (NRC) to gather feedback from citizens about city services, civic participation, characteristics of Paducah, and various community topics. A pre-notification postcard was mailed the week of April 18 with the two mailings of the five-page survey instrument sent out in the following weeks. Paducah conducted a similar survey in 2013 and used the results in strategic planning. The multiple-choice survey, developed by the International City/County Management Association (ICMA) and the NRC, included 163 standard questions and general demographics questions. Most of the questions had five choices such as Excellent, Good, Fair, Poor, or Don’t Know. As a benchmark, results also are compared to cities across the nation that recently completed surveys.
Earlier in 2016, the NRC and the City worked to finalize the survey instrument. Also during that time, the NRC compiled the sampling list of 1400 randomly selected Paducah households. Each of the selected households received a pre-notification postcard and then two mailings of the survey to encourage its completion. Once a household received the survey, the adult in the household who most recently had a birthday was asked to complete it. This is an unbiased way of selecting the survey participant allowing the results to be representative of the community. The City of Paducah had a return rate of 29% with the completion of 370 surveys. In order to get an accurate return rate, the number of surveys mailed to empty apartments or vacant homes was subtracted from the initial value of 1400. The NRC expects a return rate of 25-40% for a statistically valid sample.
The City of Paducah contracted to utilize the National Citizen Survey to gather feedback from citizens about community livability which includes city services, civic participation, governance, and various community topics. The multiple-choice survey asks citizens to rate quality of life aspects such as Paducah as a place to live, work, and visit in addition to characteristics such as the overall appearance of Paducah, its availability of paths and walking trails, and feeling of safety. Individual answers are anonymous.
Next Steps Workshop for Strategic Planning and Review of Citizen Survey Results: On July 27, 2016, the Paducah Board of Commissioners along with the City Manager and City directors participated in the Next Steps Workshop led by the National Research Center (NRC). NRC Vice President Michelle Kobayashi facilitated the strategic planning session.
The workshop’s purposes were to analyze the results of Paducah’s National Citizen Survey, compare them to the 2013 survey results and national benchmarks, assess priorities, and select strategic action topics for further review. The five reports for Paducah created by the NRC are as follows:
City Manager Jeff Pederson says, “If we are absent feedback from the people we serve, then we don’t know how well we are doing. We need the valuable feedback to help in making objective decisions and to focus on areas where we can improve.”
Kobayashi says, “Paducah, you are a case study for the National Research Center, a model that we present to other cities. In 2013, you were able to take the data, make a plan, and take action. You are in our playbook.”
“You are comparing yourself against hundreds of other cities. But these are high-performing cities since they, like you, are willing to take the risk and survey their residents.”
One of the first results that Kobayashi pointed out is that 68 percent of Paducah’s residents gave positive ratings regarding the overall quality of life in Paducah. That number increased from the 63 percent approval rating in 2013. Kobayashi says this is an impressive increase since a variety of factors come into play when looking at quality of life. Paducah received a 78 percent approval rating as a place to live and a 73 percent approval rating as a place to raise children. The community characteristics receiving the highest ratings are overall safety, safety in neighborhoods and downtown, overall ease of travel, and K-12 education. The community characteristics with the lowest ratings include employment opportunities, bicycle travel, and affordable quality housing.
City residents gave highly positive responses regarding several city services with 90 percent of the respondents giving the Paducah Fire Department a good or excellent rating; 77 percent of the respondents rating the Police Department positively; 77% of the respondents rating garbage collection as excellent or good, and 75% of the respondents rating Paducah’s parks system as excellent or good. Other services receiving high marks are the McCracken County Public Library and the local ambulance service. City services that have the lowest ratings, which Kobayashi says similar ratings are seen in cities across the country, include street repair, recycling, and code enforcement.
Kobayashi says in comparing the 2016 results with the 2013 results, “You have a common trend of being higher. A lot of the things you have been doing have been noticed by the residents, and they are paying off.”
The ratings for the city government as a whole did not change significantly from 2013’s survey. Those numbers were not as high as everyone who participated in the workshop would like to see. Kobayashi says the national political climate with negative campaigning may be affecting everyone’s public trust, even at the local level. Kobayashi adds, “There is such a lack of education of what local government does. People can rate the services they receive, but they often get their impressions of government as a whole from national media.”
After reviewing Paducah’s results, Kobayashi worked with the workshop participants in discussing the results that they expected versus the ones that were surprising. This led to a list of focus topics. After a round of voting, the group selected four action topics for further review and began identifying strategies to address each topic. The four action topics are
Population Growth and Economic Development
Infrastructure (specifically floodwall, 911, government facilities, and storm water)
The Next Steps Workshop held in 2013 led to the identification of three strategic action topics: Neighborhood Revitalization, Economic Development, and Community Engagement. Committees were developed with progress made under each category. Once again, the City plans to create committees for each of the four strategic action topics selected.
If you have a question, contact Public Information Officer Pam Spencer or 270-444-8669.