City survey a waste of time and money ?
June 9, 2008 · Updated 9:06 PM
This just in: The majority of Bainbridge Islanders are old, well-educated, well-off, hard working, happy with the present but pessimistic about the future, worried about the islands water supply and population growth, content with the current balance between city services and taxes, divided over the citys performances of late concerning planning, development and its finances, want more bike lanes, walking paths, trails, affordable housing, keeping the island rural and pretty much the way it is right now.
So whats new in the soon-to-be-released priority survey the city paid $25,000 to PRR to produce during the past month? Well, not a lot. Certainly the key findings are no more revealing than the fact that people generally live here because of individual choice and the capacity to decide their own future. Islanders see themselves as problem solvers, a quality that will be thoroughly tested in the future because of the rural vs. urban challenge that population growth will continue to generate on an island situated near a metropolitan area.
So, yes, its not surprising that the respondents (a random sample of 400 households and 552 online) are mildly distressed about the following issues threatening their quality of life, beginning with too many people flocking to a limited area, which, of course, causes such problems as: overdevelopment in rural or neighborhood areas, deteriorating infrastructure, increased housing costs, loss of open space, forest and farmlands, and traffic congestion.
Theres not much that can be done about people wanting to live here, especially since the citys economy depends greatly on that influx. Otherwise, wheres the money going to come from to ensure that the islands supply of quality water keeps on flowing, our infrastructures are maintained and our environment remains healthy?
Unfortunately, the survey was too general and didnt ask enough hard, direct questions, such as: How does the city pay for the maintenance of roads that continue to deteriorate at an alarming rate? Should Winslow Way continue to be the citys primary business district? Or would you like to see continuation of the trend toward High School Road being an equally important commerce center? Whats to be done about Winslow Way parking? Is it a problem? On and on.
Instead, we get these softball questions with answers that can be misconstrued or twisted in a variety of ways because they are too broad. Why? Is it because city leaders have no intentions of making decisions on specific issues based on what the public has to say because they cant trust the answers? For example, while 60 percent (of the respondents) of our households generally make more than $100,000 a year and represent the majority of the property taxpayers, whos to say that the 12 percent who make less than $50,000 annually per household arent the vocal majority? Sure, most people arent against bike and walking paths, but would you really prefer them over not fixing roads that are so lousy that they could cause you to drive into Puget Sound some day.
Of course, theres always the possibility that our leaders have their own agenda and arent really interested in listening. After all, the public spoke when it elected the politicians, so just get out of their way and let them govern. True, they do get confused sometimes with too much information and cant decide whats most important.
But that doesnt stop them from doing surveys so they can at least say theyre trying to do the right thing.
Isnt that the way it works?