According to the 2018 Visalia Public Opinion Survey, 89% of respondents said that Visalia’s quality of life is average to high. While average is not a stellar review, only 11% said it was low or very low but 42% that said the quality of life is high to very high.
The majority of respondents to the survey own their home, have lived in Visalia for over 10 years, and 92% were registered voters. Facebook is the preferred method of getting their news about Visalia.
The Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC) was in charge of conducting the opinion poll and took 1289 on-line and face-to-face surveys in English and Spanish from February 26 to April 13. There is a three percent margin of error.
In other results gleaned from the annual survey, 85% of the residents rated the city’s efforts favorably in providing a safe community, a few points higher than last year’s survey.
Of the 37% of respondents who had contact with the Visalia Police Department, 62% rated their experience as high or very high. That is a 10% increase from last year. The fire department rated even higher at 78%.
Just like the last two years’ results, residents ranked road maintenance the most essential city service besides Police and Fire. The roads that the respondents most want to see repaired or widened were Demaree, Akers, Caldwell, Shirk, Riggin and Tulare among others.
When asked an open-ended question about the most important thing the city should be working on to make Visalia better, the number one answer was the increasing number of homeless. This has been the number one answer since 2016.
Gangs were a close second as to what concerned Visalians. Gangs had fallen off the list over the last few years, and according to Joel Rosales, Public Opinion Survey Chair, they made a surprising comeback. Rosales believed the resurgence was due to the increased amount of tagging and the resulting violence of rival gangs fighting over turf.
Because the homeless have been a main concern of residents for years, the CAC added a new question to the survey, “What would be your recommendation to address the homeless issue within city limits?”
Responses varied from a work program, relocation, shelters, mental health services, to affordable housing.
City Council Member Phil Cox said that in terms of the homeless “it’s what people see” and that because of the lack of sufficient media coverage residents aren’t aware of the new work program the city set up for the homeless.
Councilmember Steve Nelsen concurred with Cox, saying that the information from the media is slanted and biased and the city should do a better job of getting the correct information out. He added that most people do not understand the laws concerning the homeless in that they have a right to use the parks and sit on the benches and that the police can’t just buy them a one way ticket out of town.
Mayor Warren Gubler corrected his fellow council members and said that the homeless work program has been covered in the media and that the respondents’ answers were most likely a reflection of that. In fact the Valley Voice featured a detailed article about the city’s work program for the homeless in the July 19 issue.
Vice Mayor Bob Link pointed out that homeless is a visual issue. If residents don’t see it in their own neighborhoods then they see the homeless when they drive to work or school. “It affects everyone.” He said that four Visalia Police officers are devoted to only handling the homeless and that code enforcement has been instrumental in creating solutions.
Council member Greg Collins said that because the Visalia Times-Delta’s front page articles always feature crime that it affects the residents’ perception of how safe the community is. He also mused that now that the city has resolved some of Visalia’s traffic circulation problems, he will be curious to see if the efforts will be reflected in next year’s survey.
But Collins primarily wanted to know what most surprised the CAC members who administered the survey.
Rosales said that he was expecting more negative comments concerning the homeless. He expected to hear comments like “ship them out” but instead heard respondents say they prefer a work program.
“Visalians showed a lot of heart.”
Suzanne Monroe, a long-time member of the CAC, said that the homeless has always been a big concern. For the first three years, she said that most the respondents’ comments were negative. But now residents have offered more positive solutions to alleviating the homeless problem
“The city has gotten a lot kinder,” Monroe said.
Monroe also expressed dismay that only 46% of the residents ever use Visalia’s trail system. Several other CAC members and the council were also surprised so few people used the trails and wanted to get the word out to the residents.
A map of the city’s trails can be found on:
Besides using the trail system, 64% attended an event at the Convention Center, 79% used a park and 47% attended a Rawhide Game.
To sum up the survey, issues that most concern Visalians are what the residents feel the city is handling. While gangs are still a big concern, Visalians have a lot of confidence in their Police and fire Departments to deal with the situation.
Link said he appreciates the survey because “it tells us what we are doing right and what we could be doing better.”