Kansas City sees big jump in citizen satisfaction scores

For much of the last decade, Kansas City residents have often responded to surveys about city government with the Rolling Stones’ refrain: “Can’t get no satisfaction.”

But the latest citizen survey shows satisfaction is on the rise.

For the first time in at least 15 years, three-fourths of residents who participated in the city survey rated Kansas City as an “excellent” or “good” place to live. That’s up from 70 percent last year and is the best ranking since 1997. Rankings for many city services also showed significant gains, as did residents’ perceptions of their elected leaders and the city’s overall image.

“This is a direct reflection of the work our employees have put in,” Mayor Sly James said, adding that City Council members get along and work well together. “We are making progress.”

City Manager Troy Schulte said residents do a good job of reporting problems, with 5,000 to 8,000 calls per week to the city’s 311 hotline. He said city employees have dedicated the past two years to responding to those calls more quickly and effectively, and the results are starting to show.

“We’ve seen steady improvement,” he said.

Since 2001, the annual citizen satisfaction survey has been conducted by ETC Institute of Olathe, which does surveys in many other cities and can show how Kansas City measures up to other large cities and nearby suburbs.

This year’s surveys were done on a quarterly basis between July 2012 and May 2013. A total of 9,000 households were selected to receive the survey during the past year, and 4,108 households completed the survey, either by mail, phone or Internet.

Among the key findings:

• Sixty-five percent of respondents rated the city an excellent or good place to work, up from 62 percent last year. Nearly 55 percent rated it an excellent or good place to raise children, up from 50.4 percent last year. And 53.2 percent were satisfied with the city’s image, up from 45.3 percent a year ago.

• Fifty percent of respondents were satisfied with elected officials’ leadership, up from 39.3 percent last year and just 20 percent two years ago. Forty-seven percent were satisfied with the city manager and staff, up from 36 percent a year ago.

• Scores improved significantly for such city services as trash collection, park and boulevard maintenance, cleanliness of streets and other public areas, and snow removal.

• With respect to large peer cities, Kansas City ranks in the middle as far as satisfaction with police and park service, but it still ranks low in satisfaction on street maintenance and code enforcement. The lowest score in any category was for maintenance of vacant structures, with only 18 percent of respondents satisfied. City officials said they are making that a bigger priority and directing more money to that need.

The entire survey is available at