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Post Date:02/22/2011

Think about it, it’s difficult to get nine out of ten people to agree on anything these days. But, Suwanee residents agree: 96 percent would recommend living in Suwanee to someone who asked.

Indeed, according to recently released National Citizen Survey data, City of Suwanee residents find a lot to like about their community. They like the overall quality of life in Suwanee, the availability of walking trails, and cleanliness of the community. They really, really like the preservation of natural areas and the job the Suwanee government does in welcoming citizen involvement. They’re not so crazy about traffic flow on major streets or ease of bus travel, but residents have to like how their community measures up nationally.

The National Citizen Survey (NCS), a statistically valid survey of resident opinions about community services provided by local governments, was distributed in November to 1,200 randomly selected households in Suwanee. The response rate was 30 percent, with 334 surveys returned. The 2010 results have been compared to 2008 Suwanee NCS results as well as national and regional benchmarks. National benchmarks are comprised of resident perspectives gathered via citizen surveys from approximately 500 jurisdictions.

Suwanee was rated above the national benchmark in 63 areas when considering community characteristics and local government services. In two areas, Suwanee was rated as similar to the benchmark; it was rated below the benchmark in two areas as well. The survey implemented by Suwanee used 120 different questions to measure the City’s performance in 31 community characteristic areas and 36 service areas. Residents’ responses to those 120 questions, when compared to the national benchmark, placed Suwanee in the 90th percentile or above 54 times and gave the City a top-10 ranking nationally on 28 of those questions.

In two areas, residents’ responses put Suwanee in the number one position nationally. Suwanee residents were the most satisfied nationally with their community’s preservation of natural areas, such as open space, (86% of residents rated this as excellent or good in Suwanee) and with the job the Suwanee government does at welcoming citizen involvement (80% of respondents rated this as excellent or good). Other areas where Suwanee scored a top-10 national ranking or better include Suwanee as a place to live (98% rated as excellent or good); overall appearance (93% excellent or good); City parks (95% excellent or good); sense of community (86%); opportunity to participate in social events and activities (85%); overall reputation/image of Suwanee (93%); and services provided by the City of Suwanee (87%).

“No matter how you look at the data – and there are many ways to do so – the news is great for Suwanee,” says Mayor Dave Williams. “Whether we look at how our residents rate our services and characteristics, or how survey results compare to those in 2008, or how Suwanee measures up nationally against some 500 other jurisdictions that have utilized the National Citizen Survey, our results are outstanding.”

“We’re pleased that our citizens support the direction that the City is taking,” says City Manager Marty Allen. “It’s always kind of nerve-wracking to ask the hard questions. I’m proud that our Council is committed to measuring citizen sentiment because it only makes us better.”

The approximately 500 communities included in the NCS database range in size from 1,250 in Hutto, Texas to 1,517,550 in Philadelphia. Suwanee, with a population of approximately, 16,750, is among 12 Georgia communities included in the database. Other metro Atlanta communities who have utilized the NCS include Alpharetta, Catersville, Conyers, Decatur, Milton, Roswell, Smyrna, and Snellville.

“The overall message from these results is that citizens support the direction that the City’s heading in and that we’re on track in areas where we largely control our own destiny,” says Allen. “At the same time, we realize that we must be mindful of those areas in which we can improve and work to make an impact regionally where we can.”

Suwanee’s 2010 NCS also included five policy questions related specifically to Suwanee. Three of the questions sought to gauge citizen support for public art, a permanent police presence in the Suwanee Gateway/I-85 business district, and the use of video cameras for safety purposes at public parks.  Seventy-two percent of respondents felt that providing art in public spaces would add “a lot” or “some” value to the quality of life in Suwanee. In regard to a permanent police presence in the Gateway area, 86% of respondents “strongly” or “somewhat” support while 85% “strongly” or “somewhat” support the use of video cameras for safety purposes in public parks.

Another Suwanee-specific question related to the importance of certain factors in residents’ decision to move to Suwanee. Respondents who had moved to Suwanee since 2005 rated the following areas as essential or very important: community appearance (86%), police/public safety (82%), Suwanee’s image/reputation (82%), overall community feel/vibe (81%), and county-run school system (80%).

The NCS, a joint program of the National Research Center and the International City/County Management Association, measures community characteristic and government services in eight categories: community quality, community design, public safety, environmental sustainability, recreation and wellness, community inclusiveness, civic engagement, and public trust.

A presentation about Suwanee’s National Citizen Survey results will be offered Tuesday, March 22, during the regularly scheduled City Council meeting.

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