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National Citizen Survey results
by Nancy Grindle Correspondent · August 3rd, 2017

Earlier this year, during March and April, National Research Center, Inc. of Boulder, Colorado conducted a survey for the City of Marion to find out how residents rate specific factors about the community. A presentation with the results was recently presented to the City Council, and that presentation is available on the City of Marion website under "News."

Not only do the results provide response percentages from residents, but they also compare answers with national benchmarks as well as a selection of "peer communities" which are similar to Marion in that they are located in metro areas but are not the main city, and they have similar populations and annual household incomes.

Those peer cities range from one end of the nation to the other, from California to New Hampshire and from Washington to Florida. The only other peer city in Iowa is Bettendorf. Peer cities from neighboring states include Blue Springs and Wentzville in Missouri; Lombard, Illinois; Roseville, Minnesota; and Wauwatosa, Wisconsin.

Mayor Nicolas AbouAssaly is quoted as saying, in part, "These survey results help tell a powerful story. They reinforce our status as a desirable place to live and raise a family, and shine a light on the quality of life we enjoy."

Indeed, Marion is ranked well above national and peer city averages for education and as an excellent or good place to raise children. In addition, if asked, more than 9 in 10 of those surveyed would recommend Marion as a place to live (92% excellent or good), and more than 9 in 10 said they plan to live here for at least five years (91%).

Marion ranks above other peer cities in these respects: 79 percent of the respondents say they are not experiencing housing cost stress, and 94 percent vote in local elections.

One chart has a subtitle of "How well does the government of Marion meet the needs and expectations of its residents?" On that chart, here are the responses for excellent or good in regard to the following topics:

Being honest, 63 percent

Treating all residents fairly, 62 percent

Customer service, 79 percent

Services provided by the federal government, 39 percent

While the 39 percent is way low compared to the other three answers, it still is similar to peer city benchmarks, meaning people from peer communities feel the same way about their city.

Under the general topic of mobility, positive ratings are lower than peer communities for ease of public parking (47%), ease of travel by public transportation (29%), and used public transportation instead of driving (3%).

Under natural environment, drinking water is rated excellent or good by 47 percent of respondents, which is lower than national benchmarks as well as peer cities.

Other topics with lower-than-peer ratings include shopping opportunities (40%), recreation centers or facilities (57%), availability of affordable quality mental health care (42%), and adult educational opportunities (52%).

The information provided by the NCS also contains details from multiple parts of the survey which support some facts. For instance safety and economy are the two facets of the community which respondents rated as most important, even higher than national benchmarks.

Some individual aspects of community characteristics received higher ratings than national benchmarks. Among these were the overall feeling of safety (97%), affordable quality housing (62%), housing options (71%), health care (77%), and K-12 education (86%).

Under aspects of governance, two rated higher than national benchmarks, crime prevention (83%) and traffic enforcement (76%).

An interesting finding from the data is that only 22 percent of the residents stocked supplies for an emergency. This is lower than the national benchmark. Also lower is using public transportation, which we mentioned before, and another is work in Marion (29%).

With regard to supporting property tax or fee increases to fund facilities, more than three-quarters of those surveyed strongly or somewhat support funding improvements for each of the following services or kinds of facilities:

Public safety/fire and rescue services

Street/infrastructure improvements



Outdoor trails

Other areas weren't supported quite as strongly, but still by more than six in 10 respondents:

Senior center

Outdoor pool/aquatics center

Library services were supported by close to six in 10 respondents.

The lowest was public art, strongly or somewhat supported by just over four in 10 respondents. (This may be because of recent projects like Art in the Alley and others.)

With regard to strategic planning areas and their importance to the overall quality of life in Marion, more than eight in 10 respondents found each of the strategic planning areas at least somewhat important, while more than half found all of those areas essential or very important.

Here are the numbers for essential/very important/somewhat important:

Leading planned growth, 90%

Becoming a zero-waste and energy-independent city, 88%

Redeveloping the Central Corridor, 85%

Improving the transportation system, 85%

Implementing higher design standards for projects, 82%

The members of the City Council and most other governmental bodies had noted many of the key points and issues before the survey was administered. However, the survey supports a lot of previous recommendations, and it provides others so that community decision-makers may move forward confidently.
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