Civic Agenda: Survey shows high quality of life, satisfaction with Bellingham services

COURTESY TO THE BELLINGHAM HERALDFebruary 9, 2014 

I am happy to report that a recent survey verifies what we all know: Bellingham is a wonderful place to live, and residents are extremely satisfied with the quality of life here. They particularly value our strong sense of community and casual, small-town feel, our care for each other and the environment and our beautiful parks and trails along with our many other public amenities and services.

This is just a taste of the extensive feedback we received from Bellingham residents in our recent scientifically conducted survey. Six hundred randomly selected Bellingham residents completed the 48-question survey last November, and my office recently received a report of the results. Most of the questions were repeated from similar surveys so that we can compare the results over time, as the city has conducted similar research approximately every-other-year since 2004. The results are considered scientifically valid, with a margin of error of plus-or-minus 4 percent.

Highlights of this survey's results will be presented to the Bellingham City Council at its Feb. 10 meeting. A detailed report of this research can be viewed on the opinion surveying page of the city website. The city website also provides visual comparisons to previous years' data for certain questions, as part of our overall performance measures program.

The purpose of the survey is to help identify Bellingham residents' priorities, concerns and satisfaction with city services. The results are used for many purposes, including informing budget and policy decisions, improving customer service and reporting city government progress on meeting community needs and priorities.

SURVEY HIGHLIGHTS

The survey found continued high satisfaction with quality of life in Bellingham, as well as support for the job the city is doing meeting most community priorities. A few highlights of the results include:

Quality of life: The majority (94 percent) rated the overall quality of life in Bellingham as "good" or "excellent." This rating is similar to responses to this question in 2010.

Clean, safe drinking water: The majority (91 percent) said preventing further development in the Lake Whatcom watershed to protect our drinking water is "somewhat," "very" or "extremely" important. This rating is similar to responses to this question in 2010.

Parks and trails: The majority (90 percent) rated the job the city is doing maintaining parks and trails as "good" or "excellent." This rating is similar to responses to this question in 2010.

Healthy environment: The majority (80 percent) rated the job the city is doing protecting the environment as "good" or "excellent." This response is slightly improved from 2010.

Culture and arts: The majority (84 percent) rated the job the city is doing creating opportunities for education in culture and the arts as "good" or "excellent." This response is slightly improved from 2010.

Library services: The majority (87 percent) rated the job the city is doing providing library services as "good" or "excellent." This rating has improved since 2010.

Public safety services: The majority (88 percent) rated the job the cty is doing providing public safety services (police, fire, EMS) as "good" or "excellent." Ratings for this question are similar to those from 2010.

Preventing crime: The majority (75 percent) rated the job the city is doing preventing crime and protecting the community as "good" or "excellent." This rating has improved since 2010.

Neighborhood and downtown safety: Respondents were asked a series of questions about their sense of safety in their neighborhood and downtown at different times of day. Most (88 percent) respondents feel extremely or very safe in their neighborhoods during the day, and most (71 percent) feel extremely or very safe downtown during the day. People felt least safe downtown at night, with 19 percent saying they feel extremely or very safe downtown at night, while 60 percent feel extremely or very safe in their own neighborhoods at night.

Using tax dollars responsibly: Just over half (56 percent) rated the job the city is doing using tax dollars responsibly as "good" or "excellent." This rating has improved since 2010.

Most important issues: When asked to name the most important problem facing Bellingham that city leaders can do something about, the most frequent responses had to do with growth, including comments about sprawl, over-development and traffic congestion. Other problems noted by many respondents include insufficient employment and need for more economic and business development, and the potential impacts of increased coal train traffic.

THANK YOU TO SURVEY PARTICIPANTS

The survey was conducted by Applied Research Northwest in November 2013. Randomly selected Bellingham residents were invited to take the survey by telephone or online. I'd like to give special thanks to those people who took the time to participate. The report of survey results is rich with valuable information about topics Bellingham residents deeply care about. I'm looking forward to presenting this information to City Council and the community on Feb. 10, and using it to continue to shape city government programs and services. If you have any questions about the 2014 Residential Survey, please contact my office at 360-778-8100.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

This is one of a series of monthly Civic Agenda reports The Bellingham Herald invited Bellingham Mayor Kelli Linville to provide to share updates about City of Bellingham issues and projects. She invites citizens to contact her at 360-778-8100 or mayorsoffice@cob.org.

Bellingham Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

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