Kansas Citians positive on city services overall, but dissatisfied with some basics

08/17/2014 10:16 PM

08/17/2014 10:16 PM

Kansas City is a good if not excellent place to live, according to 3 out of 4 residents surveyed recently. A somewhat smaller majority is pleased overall with the city services provided.

But when it comes to the three service areas they felt were most important — public safety, public transportation and the maintenance of streets, sidewalks and other infrastructure — Kansas City still falls short in the last two categories.

Less than half of those surveyed were “satisfied” or “very satisfied” with public transit and fewer than a third felt that way about the job Kansas City does taking care of its streets, sidewalks and the like.

On the other hand, 63 percent of residents were happy with police services.

Those are some of the high and low points of the most recent citizens satisfaction survey that Olathe-based ETC Institute conducts annually for Kansas City government.

It was a positive report card overall, and city officials found plenty to crow about in the 2013-2014 results when the survey totals were made public late last week at an event in the Crossroads dubbed “The Big 20.”

That stood for the nearly 20 percentage point increase since 2005 in residents’ positive perception of the city’s image. Some 56.5 percent of those polled said they were satisfied or very satisfied with the city’s overall image in the most recent survey of 4,300 residents via telephone, the Internet or mail that had a margin of error of plus or minus 1.5 percentage points.

That compares with 45 percent having a positive image two years ago and 37 percent in 2005, the first year the current survey format was used.

City Manager Troy Schulte said the survey showed statistically significant improvements in 61 out of 98 categories, and only seven areas with declining numbers.

Contributing to residents’ favorable perceptions were the positive grades given for most city services. Some 56 percent were satisfied or very satisfied overall. About 62 percent were happy with the way the city handles snow removal, while more (68 percent) were positive about trash pickup and 76 percent were satisfied or very satisfied with fire and ambulance service.

Mayor Sly James gave much of the credit for the rising poll numbers to “the city’s hard-working employees who contribute to building a better Kansas City each and every day.”

But a closer look at the survey revealed some key areas of citizen dissatisfaction.

Most notable: Fewer than 28 percent of residents had good things to say about the maintenance of streets, sidewalks and other infrastructure. While that was a slight improvement from last year, Schulte said he and the City Council are keenly aware of the city’s shortcomings in that area.

“We’ve got a lot of work to do to meet citizens’ expectations,” he said.

To that end, the council has been directing more money toward the city’s streets program and is working to improve code enforcement, he said.

The outlook on sidewalk repairs, however, is not good. Most sidewalk repairs are the responsibility of property owners, he said, and there are scant resources to pay for replacing the buckled ones that are the city’s responsibility.

A link to the full 144-page document can be found on the city’s home page, kcmo.gov.

To reach Mike Hendricks, call 816-234-4738 or send email to mhendricks@kcstar.com.

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