Almost eight in ten Pensacola residents say the city’s on the right track, according to the fourth annual Community Survey from the Haas Business Center.
That 76 percent mark is ten points higher than last year’s survey. The project, says Amy Newburn at the Center, was a mixed-method survey, that is, primarily on the telephone but also with “intercept surveys,” Haas-speak for in-person interviews.
“We screened for residency, that they’re 18 years old, and of course that they consent to take the survey,” said Amy Newburn, the survey’s director. “We do the same for in-person, regardless of voter status, unregistered and registered alike, so that we’re getting a representative sample of the city of Pensacola.”
When the numbers are crunched, categories such as fire service, waste collection, housing and communication are graded from A to F, based on the mean score of all respondents. There were some changes in this year’s survey, compared to the 2016 model. Most of them, says Newburn, were at what she called “micro-levels.”
“Small improvement and satisfaction with city streets, or with stormwater infrastructure,” Newburn said. “On the flip side, you see small declines in satisfaction with things like city street lighting, or recycling garbage and yard waste.”
Pensacola Mayor Ashton Hayward likes what he sees in the new survey.
“Eighty-two percent are satisfied with our fire department; 77 percent for our garbage recycling and our yard waste, [and] 75 percent [for] our police services," said Hayward. When they crunch the numbers, he says, their goal is to make other improvements.
“Infrastructure is something that you’re consistently working on; whether it’s roads, whether it’s sidewalks, underground utilities, stormwater.”
Stormwater is one of four areas of concern that were developed out of the data; along with streets, street lights and sidewalks. All four had lower satisfaction compared to services or functions. To that end, the Haas Center’s Amy Newburn says they offer the city what it calls a “priority matrix tool.”
“So that they can say ‘we know we’re excelling and we need to continue with police and fire services,” said Newburn. “’And we’re performing will with parks and recreation, but perhaps we need to continue to invest in stormwater infrastructure.’ Or maybe it’s just the case that they need to convey the information about what they’re already doing.”
One problem with Pensacola’s infrastructure is the age of its pipes and other equipment, in use since the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Mayor Ashton Hayward says that’s a unique challenge for a city that was established in 1698.
“You have a lot of those pipes that are in the ground; we’ve done a great job with replacing our [natural] gas lines,” said Hayward. “
Many Pensacola residents simply don’t have the time to go to city meetings, write a letter to the editor, or even call their city council member. And that’s exactly why community surveys are conducted, says Amy Newburn at the Haas Center.
“The administrators are hearing anecdotal information,” said Newburn. “But what the really need to know is: Is this the case on a widespread level? And with the scientifically survey [with] rigorous methods, you can then at least say, ‘We know these patterns hold true at a larger level.’”
The Haas Center administered the ten-question, multi-part survey across each of Pensacola’s seven city council districts over a six-week period that began in October 2017. With the 532 residents responding, there’s a roughly 4.2 percent margin of error.
The complete report along with the survey instrument is available on the City of Pensacola website.