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City Of Pensacola Gets Report Card

Pensacola residents appreciate their law enforcement and parks, but are less pleased with transportation and infrastructure, according to a new citywide survey.

The University of West Florida’s Haas Business Center was commissioned by the city to conduct the telephone survey during the last quarter of 2015. A similar review was done the previous year, which project leader Amy Newburn says had more components.

“Different kinds of components, like housing and economic standing for the City of Pensacola,” said Newburn. “What we really did this year was take the same ideas, and make them leaner, so that the city could use it in a more practical manner.”

The data were collected through the Haas Center’s standard practice of mixed method surveys.

“Typically, we do that so we’re really mitigating any of the really faulty parts of any one survey methodology,” Newburn said. “We use telephone surveys of both land-lines and cellphones.”

The grades range from A- to C+. At the top of the list are the city’s Fire Department with an A-; city parks and sanitation with B-, and the Pensacola Police Department with a B.

On the other side of the scale is stormwater infrastructure with a C+. That was an improvement over 2014, but people, says Newburn, have long memories. Speaking of people, the mixed-method approach yielded a more diverse group of respondents: while they were slightly older and 60% female, Newburn says they were much happier with the overall demographics.

The draft has been submitted to Pensacola Administrator Eric Olsen, and Newburn plans to give a presentation and answer questions next week.

“So that we get the interpretation from the people that actually did the study,” Olson said. “I think Amy might be able to bring a little more perspective.”

Conducting surveys in back-to-back years, or every two years, says Olson, is commonplace among a number of other cities. They’re aimed at establishing a baseline from which to answer questions such as: are we improving or falling behind in some areas, and where are the public priorities?

“We can sit in kind of an echo chamber at City Hall and hear ourselves talk about it,” Olson said. “But it’s important to get out to the public and hear on a regular basis from people who may not come to city council meetings or who may not write to us.”

Meanwhile, Newburn’s team at the Haas Center has begun their next project: a community assessment survey for the United Way of Escambia County. That’s expected to be released later this month.