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The City Journals

SoJo residents proud of city, want improved growth management, says survey

Apr 22, 2019 03:41PM ● By Jennifer J Johnson

By Jennifer J. Johnson | [email protected]

While South Jordanians are proud of their city and consider it safe and clean, the issue of managing growth looms as an ever-increasing concern, with residents broadly panning the work the city is doing in terms of planning, zoning, and building.

Residents also want information “pushed” to them by elected officials and city staff, versus owning a personal responsibility to seek out information. And the information they want pushed the most? Aspects of the city they are most critical of: rezoning and development projects in and near their neighborhoods, traffic and construction projects.

Such are the findings of a new public-opinion report issued by Salt Lake City-based market research and data analytics group Y2 Analytics, on behalf of South Jordan City.

Five years of resident outreach to ‘give citizens a meaningful voice’

The resident opinion-survey, now in its fifth year, represents findings from email-based outreach, yielding more than 900 qualified interviews, representing South Jordan’s adult population of more than 50,000. The survey instrument has a margin of error of plus-or-minus three percent, garnering statistical credibility as a true representation of public sentiment—at least for those using and relying on electronic communication.

The report, combined with the city’s recently-published “2018 Annual Report,” and in tandem with Mayor Dawn Ramsey’s “State of the City” Vision Dinner speech to the SoJo Chamber of Commerce last month, present a city emphasizing safety and quality of life and struggling with aspects of growth, such as transportation, traffic and housing.

“South Jordan is really at the crossroads of the growth pressures the state is facing,” said Cameron Diehl, executive director of the Utah League of Cities and Towns. Diehl noted the city is growing at a rate of 3,000-5,000 residents per year. “To put that in perspective,” he added. “Five thousand people is roughly the full-time population of Kanab. Such growth represents a lot of opportunities—and challenges.”

Diehl praised SoJo as “one of the leaders” in the state proactively probing residents for opinion. Diehl noted that SoJo’s vendor of choice, Y2 Analytics, is one of ULCT’s partners, and that “more and more cities are doing this, with the outcome being to “give citizens a meaningful voice.”

An ‘online veil’ aids authentic input

Market research and data analytics group Y2 Analytics assesses the opinion of “panelist” residents in each of South Jordan’s five City Council districts. The marketing research firm indicates success with “secur[ing] significant representation in each of South Jordan’s five City Council districts.”

Kyrene Gibb, vice president of research for Y2, indicates the city is “one of a handful of cities across the Wasatch proactively seeking public input.” The resident panels, she says, create a responsive feedback mechanism for “hot-button issues” and are a “quick, effective, future-proof way to communicate.”

An “online veil,” she says, “helps residents feel comfortable being more open and honest.” Leveraging technology via mobile phone apps and desktop computers provides such a veil and also saves money for the city. “City governments don’t have exorbitant research budgets,” she explains. However, Y2 personnel are able to conduct phone interviews, with residents preferring that mechanism.

“We’ve heard our residents and we are already taking action on the feedback they’ve given us,” said Rachael Van Cleave, communications manager and public information officer (PIO) for South Jordan.

Key findings of the research/SoJo residents’ ‘grades’

- 95 percent of residents indicate they would recommend the city to friends/family

- 90 percent of residents consider elected officials as providing a safe community

-  88 percent say that they were treated with courtesy and professionalism when they contacted city offices

-  87 percent of residents consider elected officials as providing opportunities to participate in events, programs and activities

- “Residents give the highest ratings to fire/emergency medical services along with garbage collection and police services, all over 80 [on a 0 to 100 scale].”

- Residents give the city an average score of 83 out of 100 in terms of  “overall quality of life.”
- 80 percent of residents say they receive an good value from the city for their tax dollar

-  66 percent of residents feel the city is “headed in the right direction,” while 25% “don’t know” or are “unsure.” Only 9 percent of those responding do not consider the city as heading in the wrong direction.

-    City code enforcement and water conservation efforts were each given average scores of 67 out of 100. Planning/zoning/building services received a 61 out of 100 satisfactory score and have seen a 14 point decrease in resident satisfaction since 2016.

- 58 percent of residents either approve or strongly approve with “how the South Jordan Mayor and City Council are handling their jobs.” (Y2 pointed out that “less than 10 percent of residents strongly approve”)

- 35 percent of residents say the city is “better now than it was five years ago,” but 20 percent of residents say they have not lived here long enough to have an informed opinion. For benchmarking comparison, the figure is five percentage points higher than the 2015 response, indicating a positive surge the past few years.

Open-ended input

When asked what they like most about living in South Jordan, Y2 reports, “Residents commonly cite the good, safe, clean neighborhoods and people as one of the best things about living in the city. They also frequently mention the convenience of living in SoJo and its proximity to services and amenities they need.”

This question, as opposed to the other questions in the survey is “open-ended,” meaning that residents had the opportunity to "fill in the blank” with their responses, as opposed to being prompted with a set of answers to the questions, as was the case with the other questions.

Y2 highlighted key responses as including “safety,” “cleanliness,” “location,” “community/neighborhood/people,” and “shopping.”

“Daybreak” was singled-out as the only specific branded neighborhood noted by residents.

Y2 posed an even more open-ended question: “If you have any comments you would like to briefly share about your experience with any South Jordan City service in the past year, please enter them here.”

Perhaps not surprisingly, with what is being deemed as “explosive growth” in not just South Jordan, but the whole Southwest Quadrant, residents’ most commonly-cited responses included “something about growth, traffic, high-density housing or overcrowding,” reports Y2.

Thinking district, acting SoJo and solo

The survey highlights unique differences in opinion among SoJo voting districts.

For example, in assessing the value received for tax dollars spent, Districts 1, 2, and 4 all are above 20 percent approval, while Districts 3 and 5, are just 16 and 17 percent approval, respectively. A full eight percent of residents from District 3 consider the value received for taxes spent “poor.”

On a much different topic – “How useful is the communication you currently receive from South Jordan?” – Districts 3 and 4 were both in single digits, rating the city 8 and 7 percent, respectively, in terms of proving “extremely useful information.”

The report also includes an interesting finding that 66 percent of residents strongly feel elected officials have a responsibility to keep residents up to date about important city projects, events, and opportunities and another 54 percent also strongly feel that city staff have such responsibility, but only 33 percent feel personally responsible for seeking information.

“We’re looking at additional ways to communicate to our residents more frequently, while still maintaining a variety of channels for communication to make sure we are being heard by as many residents as possible,” noted PIO Van Cleave.