It’s safe to say there’s one thing that the majority of folks who live in Spokane Valley share: opinionated minds.
But by perusing some of the responses to the open-ended question at the conclusion of the city’s recent mail-in survey, those opinions vary more than just a little. Closer to a lot, actually.
Whether it’s the nature of Spokane Valley government (“have it go back to the way it was before it was incorporated into a ridiculous city”) or city appearance (“get someone to move into a few of the empty business buildings”), there were plenty who took the opportunity to say exactly what it is they have stuck in their craws.
Trouble is, a lot of what they have to say is already happening, has happened or is happening somewhere else other than Spokane Valley. While it’s true enough that of the 2,000 who were mailed surveys last year, 87 percent of the 459 who bothered to return them feel Spokane Valley is a good place to live. But many seem to have lumped Spokane Valley into the area as a whole.
“It appears that some people answered from a regional perspective,” said Morgan Koudelka, senior administrative analyst for Spokane Valley, who pointed toward negative responses regarding street quality and property crimes. “It’s clear from the open-ended question they’re talking about the city of Spokane.”
The survey, conducted by the National Research Center of Boulder, Colo., elicited anonymous responses and, since it was mailed, some of the answers tended to be somewhat more negative than if the respondents were called on the phone, Koudelka said.
Survey takers were asked about community quality, community design, public safety, environmental sustainablility, recreation and wellness, community inclusiveness, civic engagement and public trust. They were requested to rate their answers from “don’t know” to a range of “poor” to “excellent.”
Responses generally mirrored those of the 2009 phone survey, and deviations of less than 5 percent are to be considered “unchanged,” Koudelka said.
While on a whole most view Spokane Valley positively – and nearly all say the plan on staying in the city for the next five years – some are discouraged by employment opportunities and a perceived lack of cultural destinations.
Only 15 percent have attended a meeting of local elected public officials in the past year, 95 percent said they helped a friend or neighbor. Less than half reported volunteering time to some group or activity in Spokane Valley, which is lower than the national benchmark.
In summary, those who sent back their surveys indicated only “mild trust” in local government. Close to half rated the overall direction of the city as “good” or “excellent,” which is also lower than the national average.
Many also want to see Spokane Valley have a city center – but
without losing the area’s rural character.
Koudelka summarized the paradox thusly: “People want a developed downtown but also preferred a small-town feel.”
On the open-ended question of “What one thing do you believe the city can do to make Spokane Valley a better community?” responses included:
- Government service – “Get rid of ‘city of Spokane Valley – what a joke? Big power grab. Do you people even live here? Thanks for wasting my time with your survey.” “Keep doing what you are doing.” “New City Council that doesn’t believe that everything should center on commercial businesses.”
- Transportation/road maintenance – “After snow removal, offer to dig driveways of those who cannot do it themselves.” “Eliminate one-way Sprague.” “Extend the one-way couplet east with more cross streets for better circulation and commercial opportunities.”
- Safety/law enforcement – “Get control of crime.” “Get druggies off the street.” “Larger police presence.” “More reliable police force.”
- Appearance/code enforcement – “Clean garbage.” “Improve appearance of Sprague.” “Get someone to move into a few of the empty business buildings (and) not allow any new permits unless current properties occupied.”
- Jobs/economic development – “Another grocery store at Pines and Sprague where Albertson’s used to be.” “More jobs.”Support small businesses.”
- Education/youth services – “Affordable child care for parents.” “Spend more money on education.” “Try to hire better teachers.”
- Alternative transportation – “Make bicycle paths on streets.” “We need more local bus support.” “Calling Spokane Valley a ‘city’ when very few sidewalks exist.”
- Parks/recreation – “Balfour Park needs to be expanded…cancel SARP!” “More cultural activities.” “Maybe a dog park.”
- Planning/City Center – “Build a downtown and expand around that.” “Create a core of the city.” “Go back to old zoning, finish Appleway.”
- Other – “Be more God like.” “Free wireless Internet for everyone in Spokane Valley.” “Get rid of all or most drug dispensers.” “Get rid of Planned Parenthood and XXX smut shops.” “Have your own Spokane Valley newspaper.”