La Palma residents overwhelmingly pleased with the city, survey says

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From left to right: Council Member Gerard Goedhart , Mayor Marshall Goodman, Council Member Nitesh Patel, Council Member Michele Steggell, and Mayor Pro Tem Peter Kim . Photo by: Steven Maikowsk

By Brooklynn Wong

La Palma has just received a “really good report card; the kind of numbers you hope to get” from its residents, said research consultant Dr. Timothy McLarney last week.

McLarney’s firm, True North Research, Inc., is routinely hired by cities and other organizations to evaluate performance and assess needs.

In November and December, a survey was conducted amongst La Palma residents to get an idea of things like how happy they are with La Palma as a place to live and work, and whether city staff is accessible and effective.

And the results? They were among some of the most positive McLarney has ever seen in such a study.

He presented the findings at the March 5 La Palma City Council Meeting.

There were two phases of surveying. First, a certain number of the city’s adults were randomly selected. They were invited via mail, email and phone to take the survey. They had the option to take it online or over the phone, and it was made available in English, Spanish and Korean.

336 people took the survey in this phase.

Next, the survey was made available to any resident that wanted to take it.

In total, 492 individuals took the survey.

The full report is available on the city’s website, but here were some highlights:

-As a place to raise a family, 95% of people said La Palma is “excellent” or “good”

-The majority said La Palma is an “excellent” or “good” place to retire

-When asked what they like most about the city, common themes that came up included the safety/low crime rate, the quiet/family-friendly/small town atmosphere, and that the city has its own police and fire departments

-When asked if the city government could change one thing, what it would be, 35% said they could not think of any changes. McLarney said this was the “ideal answer.”

-When asked if they are satisfied overall with the job the city is doing, 86% said yes, 9% said no, and 5% said they were unsure.

-There was overwhelmingly positive feedback on fire and police service, and on street maintenance.

-95% of individuals who have had interaction with city employees say staff is “accessible, professional and helpful.”

-87% are satisfied with the city’s efforts to communicate with residents, which McLarney called “exceptionally high.”

-57% said the city is moving in the right direction, 8% said it is not, and the rest were unsure.

One more specific area that was explored in the survey was the nature of City Council representation and elections. Currently, all City Council members in La Palma are “at-large,” meaning they represent the entire city. Each seat does not represent a specific district.

The survey asked whether people are satisfied with citywide election of council members. 70% said they are, while 18% said they would prefer if election was by district.

The few areas in which those surveyed were not satisfied were with the selection of places to work in the city, to shop and to dine.

A recurring theme was that the city needs some economic development. Many said that the city would do well to revitalize some of its many run-down, old commercial properties and begin introducing a better variety of restaurants, stores, movie theaters, entertainment options for adults and local businesses that would provide jobs.

Along with revitalizing old commercial centers, those surveyed cited top priorities as being improving street medians and expanding services and programs offered to seniors.

But the conclusion was, according to McLarney, “high levels of satisfaction across the board.”

After Dr. McLarney presented these findings at the meeting, one resident raised the question of whether surveying this small amount of people (what amounted to 2-3% of La Palma’s nearly 16,000 residents) gives an accurate estimate of how all residents feel.

McLarney assured the man that yes, “It’s not how many you choose, it’s how you choose…it seems counterintuitive but in fact that’s how it works,” saying these results are statistically reliable.