What do the people want?
Police and fire coverage, dependable utilities, better streets, and a clean environment top the priorities of Oberlin residents, according to the results of surveys by The Impact Group.
For six months, the consulting firm polled residents by phone, online, and in focus groups and gathered responses from 404 people. Representatives said a baseline 350 responses would provide a “very strong” picture of Oberlin residents’ views.
Who took part? The majority — 59 percent — have lived in the city more than 15 years, while another 10 percent have lived here for six to 10 years.
A little more than half were 55 or older and a third were ages 35 to 54; very few young people took part. Significantly more women answered questions than men.
As Oberlin city councilwoman Sharon Pearson pointed out, The Impact Group did not provide a breakdown of how respondents identified by race. Councilwoman Sharon Soucy added that leaders don’t want to make decisions based on feedback from only “Caucasian, reasonably wealthy, reasonably well-educated, and from a particular geographic area, because I think this is at the heart of our communication challenges.”
Phone surveys and focus groups were controlled to make sure a wide range of backgrounds were represented, consultants said.
Results did not come without criticism.
Pearson said the data shows what is important but does not reveal anything about why. For example, it’s clear that people feel policing is important but the polling does not specify whether residents want a greater police presence or feel policies should be changed.
Councilman Kelley Singleton said he was disappointed that no questions appeared at all about economic development.
And John Elder, spokesman for Communities for Safe and Sustainable Energy, said the survey was “seriously flawed” with regard to questions about how Renewable Energy Credits should be used.
Elder has called for a referendum on the November ballot to determine how RECs will be used — and the Lorain County Board of Elections has certified the issue.
Many respondents said they would donate REC money to the city to help it reach its 2020 climate positive goals. Yet Elder said no provision was made on the survey to state a preference for putting the money in Oberlin’s sustainable reserve fund as required by ordinance.
Jason Hawk can be reached at 440-775-1611 or @EditorHawk on Twitter.