Government

City survey: Harsh opinions softening toward Cedar Rapids streets

Improvements also noted in public spaces, quality of life

The quality of life in Cedar Rapids is getting better, according to results from a National Citizen Survey. The city released the survey Thursday, which “shows we are moving the needle,” Mayor Brad Hart said. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
The quality of life in Cedar Rapids is getting better, according to results from a National Citizen Survey. The city released the survey Thursday, which “shows we are moving the needle,” Mayor Brad Hart said. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — Quality of life here is getting better, as are the city’s public spaces and entertainment districts, according to the results of a new community survey released Thursday.

“This shows we are moving the needle,” Cedar Rapids Mayor Brad Hart said upon reviewing the results with other City Council members.

This is the second time — the other was in 2016 — a National Citizen Survey has been conducted in Cedar Rapids. The survey went to 3,000 households earlier this year and 821 responded.

Stephen Schmidt / The Gazette

The survey probed opinions on topics, including quality of life, local government, community characteristics and engagement. Within that, questions touched on how easy it is to get around, safety, jobs, built environment, customer service from government and the cost of living.

One of the biggest take-aways in the survey is strides made since 2016.

Among 130 items, 55 received higher scores, 74 were similar and one was lower (services provided by the federal government).

“We don’t often see — in fact, we very rarely see — this kind of positive change in a short period of time,” said Jade Arocha, a survey associate involved in the project.

Areas where Cedar Rapids saw the biggest gains from 2016 to 2018 include overall image, confidence in city government, customer service and services by city government, vibrant downtown and commercial areas, public spaces, emergency preparedness, recreation programs and centers, cultural/arts/musical activities and travel by bicycle.

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Residents here still complain about roads — a lot — but results suggest negative attitudes may be softening as the city’s aggressive Paving for Progress road repair program funded by a voter approved 1 percent local-option sales tax progresses.

Road repair remains the No. 1 most important issue in Cedar Rapids, but the portion of people who felt it was the top priority has declined from 31 percent in 2016 to 28 percent in 2018, according to the survey.

Those saying the city’s progress on street improvement was excellent or good increased from 30 percent in 2016 to 36 percent in 2018, and those who felt progress was poor declined from 32 percent in 2016 to 27 percent in 2018, according to the survey.

Overall positive attitudes about roads increased from 16 percent in 2016 to 19 percent in 2018.

Cedar Rapids is in its fifth construction season of the 10-year Paving for Progress program, which has an annual budget of about $18 million.

Arocha noted that road conditions, rather than safety, is the top concern, which is a good sign when considering priorities in other communities.

The results are compared with those from 600 other communities across the country.

Safety came in second when citizens were asked what is the most important issue facing the city, although that, too, declined as a priority from 22 percent in 2016 to 20 percent in 2018. Flood control saw the biggest increase as a top priority, climbing from 9 percent in 2016 to 17 percent in 2018, ranking third.

Among Cedar Rapids biggest strengths compared to other communities, according to results in Cedar Rapids and elsewhere, is employment opportunities, adult education, drinking water and a lack of housing cost stress.

Areas where Cedar Rapids is below the curve include street repair and cleaning, overall feeling of safety, crime prevention, air quality and places to visit.

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City Manager Jeff Pomeranz said the survey results are incorporated into city priorities, which guide city budgeting and spending.

The full survey and comparisons to 2016 can be viewed by visiting here and here.

l Comments: (319) 398-8310; brian.morelli@thegazette.com

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