CLEARWATER – Council members were given a bit of insight into how their constituents view the city they call home courtesy of a recently released community survey that measures the livability of cities.
And for the most part, residents are happy to hang their hat in Clearwater.
Public Communications Director Joelle Castelli presented city leaders with the results of the National Citizens Survey during a workshop on Sept. 5 at city hall.
The survey measures community characteristics, governance and participation among residents and compares it to other benchmark cities with populations between 64,000 and 150,000. The survey drew 580 responses and had a 4 percent margin of error.
According to the survey, 84 percent of those polled rated the quality of life in Clearwater as excellent or good, and 89 percent said Clearwater was a good place to live. Seventy-one percent rated the city as a good place to raise children, with 81 percent saying Clearwater is a good place to retire.
The city also rated high for safety, with residents feeling comfortable at 71 percent, as well as shopping opportunities, which came in at 77 percent favorable compared to other area communities.
City leaders should be pleased to learn that in terms of governance, 77 percent of those who responded gave positive ratings for city services, with the highest rated services being police, fire, ambulance/EMS, parks and libraries.
All in all, nine out of 10 residents feel that Clearwater is a good place to visit, which is higher than other benchmark cities.
On the flip side, residents found that the city’s downtown areas were far from vibrant, with only 33 percent currently pleased. Traffic, as usual, was also found to be unsatisfactory, with ease of travel by car coming in at 44 percent and public parking at 32 percent.
Residents ranked quality of education in Clearwater at 57 percent, which is lower than other comparable cities.
Perhaps one of the most telling figures was when residents were asked about a sense of community in their hometown.
Less than half, 46 percent, responded that Clearwater exuded a sense of community among its residents.
Of immediate importance to city leaders was how residents viewed the Imagine Clearwater bluffs masterplan and the upcoming referendum which will help implement some of the plans and strategies set forth in it.
Of those responding, 51 percent had no familiarity with the plan; 33 percent had heard of it but were not familiar with what it entails and only 16 percent reported a familiar knowledge with it.
Of those familiar with the plan, 47 percent said they strongly supported it, while 45 percent said they somewhat support the plan. Eight percent said they strongly or somewhat oppose the plan.
When it comes to the upcoming referendum, the numbers were even more discouraging for city leaders.
When asked about the likelihood of voting for the referendum, only 41 percent said they were very likely, with another 41 percent saying they would be somewhat likely to vote in favor of it. The remaining 18 percent said they were somewhat or very unlikely to not support the referendum.
“What we’ve seen immediately from these results is the need for more communication about the Imagine Clearwater plan,” Castelli said. “We have been working to make sure that information is up to date and on our website.
“We are working on our mailings to go out to residents to say what the referendum question is going to be,” she continued. “So that is our immediate goal.”
Another takeaway from the survey, Castelli said, shows a need to continue to focus on the city’s downtown corridor, working to make it more vibrant and welcoming for residents and visitors alike.