What Puebloans think of their city in the latest community survey

In a city that is either criticized or defended with staunch conviction, it’s clear what people want: A better life. This upcoming year and the years that follow are, in the eyes of its citizens, filled with potential.

In a July survey commissioned by the city of Pueblo through an organization called the ETC Institute, which gathers data to help communities plan for the future, 413 Pueblo citizens expressed their opinions on a variety of issues such as public safety, quality of life, recreation and the progress they would like to see Pueblo make within the next two years.

The survey, which is conducted every two years, has been administered by the city since 2010.

For the past four years, the questions have served as an indication of Puebloans’ priorities and hopes for improvement in the city.

In 2012, for example, citizens placed high priority on improving the maintenance of city streets and working toward better enforcement of city codes and ordinances. All of this, they hoped, would be completed by 2014.

According to citizens of Pueblo, not much got better within those two years.

Between 2012 and 2014, Pueblo’s overall satisfaction with the city’s effort to maintain streets dropped from 21 percent to 15 percent. That’s the lowest it has been in the survey’s four years of implementation.

At the time of this most recent survey, Puebloans still placed the most urgency on improving the maintenance of city streets.

The survey, known as the DirectionFinder, which is tailored to determining public opinion of community standards, has participants answer questions on a five-part scale, which ranges from categorizations of satisfied to dissatisfied.

Hundreds of other towns across the United States have participated in the DirectionFinder survey.

Of the Pueblo citizens who said street maintenance needed to be improved within the next two years, 64 percent gave the city’s effort the lowest possible ranking on the survey.

At the time of this most recent survey, Puebloans still placed the most urgency on improving the maintenance of city streets.

The citizens’ satisfaction with enforcement of city codes and ordinances also decreased significantly. In 2010, 37 percent of those surveyed were satisfied with the way the city handled tasks like removing graffiti. This year, only 25 percent were satisfied.

And it wasn’t only the high-priority categories that have been failing recently, according to Puebloans.

Every single other category related to services provided by the city saw decreases in citizen satisfaction.

So, what’s happening here?

It could be that many of the 413 people who decided to take the survey are strongly opinionated and took it as an opportunity to criticize the city. After all, completing the survey did not come with incentives and remained on a volunteer basis.

The ETC Institute is clear in the survey’s introduction that the document was sent out to 1,500 random households in the city. Half-hearted opinions could have belonged only to the 1,087 people who decided against completing it.

However, although there were decreases in every category, not all of them necessarily served as negative reviews.

For instance, satisfaction with the quality of emergency and medical services was at 81 percent, which is just a 3 percent decrease from 2010.

The two most popular factors that would determine the city’s retention of citizens were safety and security and employment opportunities.

If these results come from people who are not just aiming to criticize the city, several issues will need to be addressed in order for the survey to yield percentage increases in two years.

And those percentage increases could influence the future of Pueblo. 2015 could be the first step in changing life in the city.

Other categories, outside of city services, were also indicative of a trend of relative dissatisfaction with the city of Pueblo.

In a section that discussed perceptions of the city, 43 percent of people said the image of Pueblo was below average.

The section that discussed public safety displayed relative satisfaction with the fire department and dissatisfaction with the police department.

Only 27 percent of people were satisfied with Pueblo’s effort to prevent crime. This contributed to a downward trend over the four-year period, which includes a 15 percent decrease from 2010.

If the people who took the survey serve as a true indication of the rest of Pueblo, retaining and attracting citizens may become a problem.

The continual decrease in satisfaction that is becoming prevalent may influence whether or not people stay in Pueblo within the next 10 years.

The majority of people who took the survey (80 percent) have lived in Pueblo for more than 20 years. One section of the survey asked residents to choose three factors that would influence whether they stay in Pueblo within 10 years.

The two most popular factors that would determine the city’s retention of citizens were safety and security and employment opportunities.

Many people placed a high priority on employment opportunities, as they listed that as their top choice.

Twenty years is more than enough time to make a home in Pueblo. It’s also enough time to become familiar with the town’s real issues.

The Puebloans who took the time to complete a seven-page survey did not do so apathetically. These people, who have called Pueblo home for years, considered what it would take for them to leave. If the city does not utilize 2015’s full potential, they just might lose passionate people who care about improving the city.

And if Pueblo wants to attract new people, it has to compete with other, happier parts of the country.

The ETC Institute works to collect similar data from other random parts of the country, in the form of two surveys. Data found there is(are) compared with that(those) of other cities, including Pueblo.

According to the comparison, Pueblo is not as happy as the rest of the United States.

One DirectionFinder was administered to 416 other people in the Northwestern states, including Idaho, Colorado, Montana, Oregon, Utah, Washington, Nevada and Wyoming.

An additional survey was sent to 4,000 random United States citizens, in various parts of the country.

In nearly every category that was measured, Pueblo falls behind the rest of the country. In a section titled “satisfaction with issues that influence the perceptions of the city,” for example, Pueblo’s results were dismal.

According to citizens of Pueblo, not much got better within those two years.

In the Northwest, 70 percent of people are happy with the appearance of their cities. Sixty-eight percent of the random U.S. citizens throughout the country are happy with the appearance of their cities.

Only 32 percent of Puebloans are satisfied with the appearance of Pueblo.

The only category in which Puebloans are happier than the Northwest related to customer service in the city.

The rest of the United States yielded more satisfaction than Pueblo did, in every single category that was measured.

So attracting new citizens to Pueblo might be a difficult task to accomplish, especially when other parts of the country seem to be more content with their cities.

As 2015 starts another two years of improvement hopes, a New Year’s resolution for the city needs to focus on changing. If Pueblo wants to retain its current citizens, attract new ones and simply become better overall, it needs to take the potential Puebloans know 2015 has seriously.

A lot of people have made a home in Pueblo and their hopes could determine the future of the city. And, in the start of a new year, realizing the full potential of that future should start now.