City's performance rated in poll

Charlotte residents think the city does a good job responding to fires, running the airport and providing drinking water, according to a city survey.

But they believe the city needs to improve in other areas: Making affordable housing available, improving road conditions and cracking down on landlords who own neglected property.

The survey, conducted by local firm MarketWise, was designed to help city staff learn what they are doing well and how they can improve. Charlotte does a similar survey every four years.

This year, 402 people were interviewed by telephone about services ranging from growth planning to trash pickup. Results indicated that overall, residents have positive impressions of the city. They think it is a good place to live and raise children. They believe the city provides quality services to residents.

Since 2004, the public's opinion of some services has improved: More people like how the city handles the animal shelter and pet adoption than they did four years ago. And more people had positive impressions of how the city addressed storm water issues.

But the perception of safety in the city fell. Fewer people agreed this year that Charlotte was “a safe place to live.” And respondents were less likely to say the city performed well in crime prevention efforts.

City spokeswoman Kim McMillan attributes some of that decline to the timing of the survey. It was taken between May4 and May 23, during a spate of homicides, police shootings and publicity about a spike in crime. The city was also looking for a new police chief, so people were attuned to Police Department performance, she said.

“We had a lot of citizen crime groups forming,” McMillan said.

Many of the survey responses fell in a middle ground – between five and seven on a scale of 10. And when McMillan presented the data at a City Council meeting Monday night, some council members questioned how useful the data was.

Councilman John Lassiter asked whether respondents were truly familiar with some of the subject matter. The survey asked residents to rate the city's performance in housing codes and zoning ordinances, as well as fire and police services.

“How many people know much of this stuff at all?” Lassiter asked.

Councilman Warren Cooksey noted that the survey calculated perceptions. He interpreted one part of the survey to say that people think the city is doing a slightly better job putting in bike lanes than maintaining roads.

“I think we can use this to pretty much justify whatever we want to,” he said.