Every year the Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC) conducts a public opinion survey to gage how Visalians feel about their city. This year’s survey was conducted in April and results have recently been made available. The Citizens Advisory Committee uses an all-volunteer force to collect the approximately 300 responses.
According to Eric Frost, deputy city manager, not a lot changed since last year’s survey, but there were some interesting results and a few changes. Participation in the survey by Hispanics increased from 25 to 38 percent and better reflects the 2010 Census which showed 46 percent of the City’s population as Hispanic.
Another point of interest was that residents living in the southwest quadrant of the city, and who earned $40,000 or more, were the most satisfied with living in Visalia. Frost also said that the survey showed that residents see Visalia better as they age, and that Visalians are more satisfied than ever with the police and fire departments.
The major take away was that Visalia provides a safe place to live and offers quality services based on the following responses.
When residents were asked about their quality of life, 98 percent rated the overall quality of life in Visalia as average to very high, with 61 percent of those respondents answering high or very high. This was a 2 percent increase from 2014. No one in the income groups of $40,000 or more stated Visalia’s quality of life was low or very low.
In regard to providing a safe community, 50 percent rated the city’s efforts as high or very high, which was an increase of 5 percent. The southeast residents gave Visalia the highest rating with 56 percent. The northeast quadrant of Visalia ranked community safety services the lowest.
Although the annual survey mostly asks the same questions, the CAC does come up with two new questions each year. One of those questions was, “What telephone types do you have?” Ninety-five percent have a cell phone.
Sixty-eight percent of 18- to 35-year-olds no longer have a landline. This national trend has hampered the ability of all phone surveys to get a random sample as this age group.
The second new question was if the respondent preferred to take the survey online or in person. Two-thirds of Visalians preferred to be interviewed in person.
At the end of the survey was an open ended question, “What is the most important thing that the City should be working on to make Visalia better?”
The homeless problem showed up as the most prevalent and most often mentioned area of concern by residents. Roads, parks, traffic and streets were also mentioned.
Councilmember Greg Collins commented that the homeless problem in Visalia is more pronounced than in years past.
He did say that the Oval in North Visalia was looking better, but that the homeless have just moved from there to Recreation Park.
He plans on making the homeless problem a subject of conversation during the city council’s next retreat in January.
Gangs were mentioned by the survey respondents, but not as much as compared to years past. Jason Salazar, Visalia’s chief of police, said that because of prevention and stricter enforcement, gang activity in Visalia has been in decline.
He concurred that homelessness has been very visible throughout the city.
Kristi Bruce, a member of the CAC who was in charge of running the survey, said, “In talking to people during the Public Opinion Survey, people expressed how much they really liked our city; happy to be living here and believed the city was headed in a good direction. Yes, there were comments about things that people would like to change yet overall, it was a good vibe. ”