The Bottom Ten — Dredging Albemarle’s Survey

By. Neil Williamson

Earlier this month, Albemarle County released their  Biennial Citizen Survey (300+ page PDF) conducted by the University of Virginia’s Center for Survey Research. Understandably, when the survey was released Albemarle County focused on the many positive aspects of the report.

The Free Enterprise Forum has studied the survey results and finds many positives.  One measure the survey attempts to track is the importance of particular service items.  Table III-1 ranks 38 service items by importance. 

While the top end information is interesting, I was fascinated by what I call “The Bottom Ten”  These are the ten lowest ranking service items based on the 2008 survey data:

28.  Promote the development of affordable housing

29.  Support affordable child-care

30.  Provide support for people in financial need

31.  Make it easy to get around by bus or van

32.  Preserve historic buildings

33.  Make it easy to get around by public transportation

34.  Provide learning opportunities for adults

35.  Preserve historic buildings not protected by private groups

36.  Support cultural and entertainment opportunities

37.  Regulate outdoor lighting to reduce light pollution and glare

38.  Promote tourism in our area

It is understandable that politicians generally focus on those areas where citizens want additional funding but it should be of at least equal if not greater value those services that they do not rank as very important.  This may or may not indicate a lack of interest in the issue merely a lack of interest in government support of the issue. 

Number 31 and 33 reflect the generally low priority for public transportation as local officials were seeking the power to impose a sales tax to pay for an expanded transit system (and other transportation projects).

Even as the citizens place low priority on historic preservation of buildings, Albemarle County has a historic preservation ordinance in the Community Development work plan.

As one who spent the time reading the expansive cross tabulated survey results, it is of critical importance that Albemarle County officials read and understand the Top Ten and the Bottom Ten.

If information is power and the opinions of the people matter, one might expect a reduction in government expenditures (and staff time) in those areas ranked low in importance. 

Unfortunately, the cynic in me thinks not.

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