Study shows residents' approval of Oklahoma City services

Published: Monday, August 24, 2009 7:00 am By: Bryan Dean

The Oklahoman

Oklahoma City residents are happy with their local government and getting happier, according to a recent survey.

The city hired ETC Institute, a national survey company, to conduct its annual survey of residents regarding city services. The results released last week showed improvement from last year in all but one of the 57 areas the company assessed, with traffic flow as the only negative area.

The city is above the national average in 27 of the 32 benchmark areas his company surveys, said Chris Tatham, vice president of ETC Institute.

"The city is clearly moving in the right direction, and you are doing that in a turbulent time when most communities around the country are actually seeing decreases in satisfaction levels," Tatham said.

The company surveyed 1,393 city residents, asking them to rate the city on a scale of 1 to 5 in numerous areas. Tatham said 71 percent of those surveyed gave the city a rating of four or five on the overall quality of services, and only 6 percent gave a one or a two.

"I think it's kind of an unexplainable increase," Mayor Mick Cornett said. "In these economic times, you would assume there is going to be more negativity in the community."

People are most happy with the city's fire service, with 92 percent giving the fire department a positive rating. Ambulance service, water utilities and police service also got positive ratings of 70 percent or higher.

The survey report show a pocket of support for the city's planning efforts around the location of the planned relocation of the Interstate 40 Crosstown Expressway. Pat Fennell, executive director of the Latino Community Development Agency, works with many Hispanic residents in the area.

She said the natural reaction to seeing streets and other infrastructure improved in an inner city area would be positive.

"I think there is a lot of enthusiasm in general on core to shore, and there is already some work going on around the highway," she said. "People know that something is going on."

Although those surveyed were happy with police service, the city ranked below other cities surveyed on whether residents' feel safe in their neighborhood at night. The most cited safety concern was gang activity.

Lowest rated was street maintenance, with half of those surveyed giving a negative rating. Those most dissatisfied with the condition of major city streets were centered in the far southwest and southeast parts of the city, along with a cluster near the state Capitol.

The city's public transit system and traffic flow also rated poorly. Those three areas were also the most popular when the company asked which areas the city should emphasize in the next two years.

Cornett said the city has increased its efforts in those areas.

"I think it's clear if you look at the priorities we have addressed and are addressing, their concerns are our concerns," he said. The most significant improvements from last year were in issues dealing with city parks. Satisfaction with city golf courses, availability of park information, safety in parks, quality of swimming pools and the availability of recreational centers all saw increases of 15 percent or more from last year's survey. Although the city renovated the East Course at Lincoln Park and has added spraygrounds, few other changes have been made in parks, leaving officials surprised at the results. Residents near Lake Hefner were particularly critical of park safety. Police made a series of arrests this spring for lewd behavior at parks including Lake Hefner's Hobie Point. "I think people recognize that we are moving in the right direction and they understand - perhaps better than we give them credit for - that other cities are having a tough time economically, a lot tougher time than we are," Cornett said.

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