Lakewood residents are experiencing a high quality of life and overall find the city a safe place to live, but government performance and interactions with city employees are areas for improvement.
That was just some of the data presented during an Aug. 5 study session to update the City Council about how residents perceive the city. The data was gathered through a citywide survey administered by the National Research Center (NRC).
The city has conducted the survey six times since 2000, but this year’s survey was a little different.
“Our last survey was in 2010, and this year we had updated questions so we could have more evaluative feedback,” said Nanette Neelan, deputy city manager.
Laurie Urban, with the NRC, presented the data to council, with some information about how the survey was administered and its purpose.
“These surveys are all about transparency and accountability,” she said. “It’s also important to keep in mind that they are perception surveys — they show what residents are thinking, but not why they think that way.”
The survey was mailed to 3,000 randomly chosen households, spread equally through the five wards. A total of 921 people participated, a return of about 32 percent. NRC then weighted the results to reflect the community at large.
Some of the criteria NRC used to gauge the results were age, race, gender, housing type and housing tenure.
According to the results, on a whole residents are very happy with life in Lakewood.
The data showed that 93 percent of respondents rated their overall quality of life as “very good” or “good,” and at least 70 percent of respondents gave answers of “good” or “very good” when asked to rate their neighborhood as a place to live, Lakewood as a place to raise children, and the city as a place to work and retire.
Transportation in the city and safety also received high marks, however, there was a drop in the ranking for feeling safe in the evening in commercial areas.
Somewhat surprisingly, residents said the most frequently used sources of information about Lakewood were television news, the mailed newsletter Looking At Lakewood, and friends or neighbors. At least 77 percent using each at least once a year.
Murphy asked about this result, and Urban said that television being named as the top source of information is consistent with surveys from other cities.
“That doesn’t necessarily mean that people are turning on the news to see Lakewood, but when it gets mentioned in the evening news, they hear it and remember,” Urban said.
There is still work to be done in some areas.
Some 56 percent of respondents reported the overall Lakewood city government performance as “very good” or “good,” which was a lower rating than in 2010 and below the national benchmark comparison that NRC uses. Between 71 percent and 76 percent of respondents gave city employees “very good” or “good” ratings for their knowledge, courtesy, responsiveness and overall impression. However, these ratings were below both NRC’s national and Front Range benchmark comparisons.
Urban urged caution in reading these results, though.
“These questions were compiled and worded differently, so we would urge caution in interpreting these questions over time,” she said. “We did see between 29 to 42 percent selecting “neither good nor bad” for these questions, and 20 percent selecting “I don’t know,” so some people were just unfamiliar with the city government.”
Residents also gave some direction for where the city should focus next, with the majority considering crime prevention, and the overall appearance and cleanliness of the city as the most important factors in Lakewood over the next two years.
“This is really useful information, and we’re going to want to get more information on the how and why people answered the way they did,” Neelan said.