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Resident Satisfaction with the County Increases

by Katie Pyzyk May 23, 2012 at 11:00 am 3,099 63 Comments

Arlington residents are not only happy with the county government’s services, they’re more satisfied than before, according to a new study commissioned by the county.

This is the third time Arlington has done a Resident Satisfaction Survey; the first took place in 2004, with another in 2008. The county uses the results to target areas for improvement, and to figure out the public resources residents find most beneficial.

This year’s results showed that overall satisfaction with county services increased to 89 percent, up from 87 percent in 2008. Satisfaction with overall quality of life in Arlington increased from 87 percent in 2008 to 92 percent this year.

Some areas for improvement were also identified by the survey. By a wide margin, maintenance of county streets and management of traffic flow were identified by respondents as areas that are “most important for the County to improve.”

Other trouble areas where the county hopes to improve include quality of human services, management of smart growth practices, preserving affordable housing, preserving nature areas and enforcing traffic laws. There was also a lower satisfaction rating this year for the hours of library operation, which county staff hopes will be solved by an already-funded increase in library hours starting in July.

When compared against other communities of similar size Arlington came out 32 percentage points above the national average for satisfaction with county services.

“I’m pleased with the results of the survey. It shows we are clearly moving in the right direction — and that we need to continue to invest in our streets and infrastructure,” County Manager Barbara Donnellan said in a statement. “Having objective data from the community on where we are doing well and where we need to improve is critical to our work.”

The survey was conducted in April by ETC Institute, and information was gathered via phone, internet and mail. More than 1,300 households participated. Full results are available online.

  • pretty obvious that most of the people posting on this board didn’t participate in this survey. *howls & votes in silly survey as a somewhat-satisfied arlington resident*

    • CW

      ARLnow theme song…”They see me trollin’, they hatin…”

    • Josh S (Ellipses Man)

      Not necessarily. It’s pretty easy to spout off on the internet. When faced with a chance to actually voice one’s opinion in a forum that matters (well, matters more than here), I wouldn’t be surprised at all if some people changed their tune.

  • brendan

    “management of traffic flow on county streets”

    somehow this has continued to get worse and worse. appears the more they do, the more it gets screwed up.

  • WeiQiang

    … someone’s head is going to explode here

  • novasteve

    I bet they told the state to audit people who didn’t give them positive remarks, or they “lost” your car sticker payment and thus you’re getting massive tickets every time you park.

    • drax

      No, steve. They didn’t.

      • Plunkitt

        “No, steve. They didn’t.”

        And you know this how ??

        • drax

          Oh, for God’s sake.

        • SomeGuy

          Plunkitt, only drax is allowed to use the “if you don’t have personal insider knowledge of the proceedings, you don’t know, even if common sense makes it apparent)” argument.

          So it’s not appropriate for you to challenge drax in that same fashion.

          • drax

            I think maybe my response was deleted by the moderator. You’ll have to imagine it.

          • SomeGuy

            Good idea. I’ll try to imagine a few sentences devoid of logic. That should capture it.

          • drax

            Sure, logic.

          • JMT

            LOL, SomeGuy is right.

  • drax

    Gonna be fun to watch this.

  • SomeGuy

    Love these surveys with ambiguous answers. Example: “Enforcement of county codes and ordinances,” which ranks 3rd highest in the “dissatisfied” category.

    So what’s the message? I.e. are people dissatisfied with over-zealous enforcement (e.g. throwing sidewalk signs in dumpsters)? Or dissatisfied due to a lack of enforcement?

    Either way, ETC Institute gets to cash their check for putting it in PowerPoint.

    • Josh S (Ellipses Man)

      Agree that many of these questions were poorly written. I don’t see how they could have gotten past county review without someone pointing that out. But then the ETC folks must have had some sort of explanation….

      • SomeGuy

        Josh S, unless you’re really into oblong conical sections, can you change your parenthetical to say “ellipsis.” I think that’s what you’re trying to be clever with, but I don’t know the background, so it’s just a hunch.

        • SomeGuy

          Although that IS acceptable plural form, so if you don’t mind the ambiguity, carry on…

          • Josh S

            I wish I could buy you a drink right now.

            Singular. Plural. It’s all good.

            Post-existentialism is where it’s at on the ARLnow boards…..

          • Josh S

            I mean, witness O.C.’s comments below.

          • drax

            “It’s all good.”

            Wrong use of plural. It’s THEY ARE all good.

            😉

  • South Awwlington

    Was this the absolutely relevant survey we took recently that closed with the question asking about sexual orientation?

    • Plunkitt

      Yes

      • South Awwlington

        What was that about? Bragging rights?

    • drax

      When someone asks my sexual orientation, I always say “North.”

  • O.C.

    This was a poorly conducted survey. They mixed together three forms of data gathering (phone, internet and mail). The sample was clearly not representative of Arlington as a whole. The survey was stacked to generate a positive response.

    The County would be far better off contracting out opinion gathering to ArlNow. No new survey would be necessary; ArlNow could simply collect the comments already posted in their posts and on the forum.

    The text of the comments could then be coded, aggregated and distilled into a report for County personnel. Rather than locking in a set of “topic areas” as with the ETC survey, the ArlNow comment distillation would focus on the topics that are in fact MOST important to County citizens because they reflect what those citizens voluntarily discuss.

    This would give a correct, unbiased estimate of opinion amongst the County’s citizens–one that reports out the negative view the County’s citizens in fact hold about the County. This ArlNow comment distillation would be a far more reliable AND valid estimate of opinion than that generated by the fancy “ETC survey” or the dramatic “election results” that the County seems to glom onto time after time after time.

    • drax

      You think a self-selected bunch of comments on a website make a better survey? Clearly you know nothing about valid surveys. Absolutely nothing.

      • Plunkitt

        And your credentials are ???

        • drax

          I didn’t claim to have any credentials.

          • here are drax’s credentials *hands u a half eaten can of pringles and a blue shoelace*

            *howls & runs away with drax’s credentials after u look at them*

          • Josh S

            *Wonders whether ARLnow’s comment boards have really managed to attract the biggest crowd of nutcases this side of Times Square or whether we’re all just acting…..*

    • Glebe Roader

      Not everyone in the county holds a negative view of how the county is run. A lot of people who post here hold a negative view of almost everything.

      • John Fontain

        I think the county is very well run on balance. I do think we could watch the purse strings a bit more on many of our expenditures.

    • Josh S (Ellipses Man)

      I assume all the business about using ARLnow comments was a joke.

      But how do you conclude that the sample was “clearly not representative of Arlington as a whole?”

      • O.C.

        The survey was “clearly not representative of Arlington as a whole” because the responses were wrong. People like Novasteve and KalashniKEV carry the day on ArlNow, but those views are nowhere to be found in the survey responses.

        I know that there is tons of dissatisfaction with the County, and not just on ArlNow. I see it when I gather with my friends for a round of golf at WGCC, and my wife hears the same thing when she mets with her friends in the Ladies’ Lounge there.

        I listen to complaint after complaint when I attend a talk at St. Thomas More or at St. Agnes.

        I observe the County’s failures when the car taking me to Reagan National is delayed due to County-mandated construction forcing my driver to detour around County-sponsored road project boondoggles and affordable housing construction pits.

        This County needs to pay more attention to its citizenry, the taxpayers and businesses who own homes and/or work in Arlington.

        • drax

          A joke should be funny, and have some kind of relation to reality.

          • Andy Dufresne

            How can you be so obtuse? This is in 3rd place behind only Mr. de guerre and Mr. Cranium for wit and sarcasm.

          • Bluemontsince1961

            You said it, Andy!

        • arlcyclist

          Is this satire? Do you really think the people complaining about the county at a country club and churches are representative of the county as a whole? My hunch is that a large majority of Arlingtonians don’t frequent country clubs or churches.

        • Bluemontsince1961

          Best satirical post of the day so far, OC

  • John Fontain

    Next time, please include a question related to satisfaction with taxes and the cost of government (i.e., value of what you get for what you pay).

    • AllenB

      They did. Read the survey not just the chart shown here.

      • John Fontain

        Oh, I didn’t see it in the executive summary. Can you point me in the right direction?

        • AllenB

          I was curious too and I found it in Section Two.

          • John Fontain

            Hmm, looked there and didn’t see it. Can you be more specific?

          • Andy Dufresne

            Section Two (please answer yes or yes):

            Do you think the county tax rate (NOT THE TOTAL DOLLARS) at $0.958 per hundred dollars of assessed value is lower than the Fairfax County rate of $1.075?

            Do you think the total cost of government is lower compared to the recent JP Morgan losses?

          • John Fontain

            In Chapter 11 I found the following:

            Should the County increase spending next year more than the rate of inflation or a lot more than the rate of inflation?

            And

            Don’t you think it’s cool how the county phrases the wording in its bond referendums to avoid the use of plain English?

          • drax

            Thanks, John, for the nod to plain English. If you understood it, we did.

          • Josh S

            And for “plain English”, please read “language that would allow John Fontain to make his political point.”

          • drax

            Me not get, Josh. Too much syllable. Please to make easy for dumb voter me read.

          • John Fontain

            “And for “plain English”, please read “language that would allow John Fontain to make his political point.”

            How does wanting to ensure that voters easily understand what they are voting for have anything to do with politics?

          • nerf

            Hey, speaking of “plain english”, Arlington’s announcement last night about selling $110 million of bonds for Long Bridge Park, the Arlington Mill Community Center and something about “Metro” described them as “voter approved” projects. I don’t recall seeing those items listed on the ballot. The bonds were general park and planning improvement bonds I thought.

          • AllenB

            Section 2, labeled page 11 (but really only page 4 or 5).

            “Value you receive for County taxes” – results? 63% satisfied, 22% neutral, 15% dissatisfied.

          • drax

            Thanks AllenB.

  • Elmer

    Why use plain English when we have Arlington Speak?
    Better get out the Planet Arlington dictionary.

    • drax

      Why use words when we have numbers? You know, like 89%?

  • Suffering Arlington Taxpayer

    According to today’s Washington Post (page B5), Arlington County paid $47,000 for this nonsense. Granted, it’s not quite as reliable a source as ArlNow, but pretty good.

    It’s getting to the point where I’d consider voting for a Republican for County Board just to end the madness.

    • drax

      I told you this would be fun to watch. You win the best spin award of the day. That was genius! The county wasted our money finding out that we are overwhelmingly happy with how it spends our money! Damn, you should go do ads for the GOP.

      • John Fontain

        To say the survey was focused on how happy we are with the way money is spent is beyond a stretch.

    • mick way

      Why do I get the suspicion that in another context the phrase “According to today’s WaPo..” would cause you to roll your eyes?

    • Josh S

      For God’s sake, just do it. You don’t have to tell us about it. We don’t care.

  • LPS4DL

    Welcome to reality, folks. Unlike the jokesters, pranksters, and disgruntled people who liberally clutter the comments pages of ArlNow, the truth is that Arlington is a great place to live and the people who live here love Arlington. The numbers are fantastic compared to the national average that is 32??? points lower! You can also check out the rating industry for government agencies and commercial establishments. They would kill to get Arlington’s numbers.

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