City of Aspen survey results hit the good, bad and ugly
November 7, 2016
Aspen residents feel safe, enjoy the quality of life and the city's open space and trails, but they're down on the Parking Department, and some believe too many dog owners are getting away with not picking up dog poop and ignoring the leash laws.
Those and other details of living here are revealed in the Aspen Citizen Survey that the city released Thursday.
Administered by Boulder-based National Research Center, the survey was mailed to 1,750 randomly selected Aspen households, with 291 responding, or 18 percent.
A combination of 88 percent of the respondents said they were either "satisfied" or "somewhat satisfied" with the city's services, while the remaining 12 percent said they were "not at all satisfied" or "somewhat not satisfied," the findings showed.
City services garnering the five highest marks were the GIS Department, which generated a 96 percent satisfaction rate; the Red Brick Center for the Arts, with a 95 percent rate; the City Clerk's Office and Police Department, with 94 percent; and the Wheeler Opera House, with 92 percent.
Rounding out the bottom five were parking, with 47 percent; the Burlingame Phase II development, with 55 percent; Community Development, with 59 percent; the Aspen-Pitkin County Housing Authority, with 66 percent; and the City Manager's Office, with 67 percent.
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"With a lot of those survey questions, we're trying to get the transactional experience," said Assistant City Manager Barry Crook. "But what I fear, sometimes, is that it's someone who has not had a transactional experience, but they are expressing their viewpoint about the program."
The Parking Department did not win over many new fans this year when it raised the price of metered parking in the downtown core by 50 percent during the months of June, July and August. Community Development, which navigates developers and property owners through the land-use process, successfully pitched a development moratorium to City Council earlier this year. And the City Manager's Office is stung with occasional criticism about how the city is run.
Suffice it to say, Aspen is home to numerous opinions about how the city is run, both good and bad.
Crook said he understands that goes with the job.
"If you look at the low-scoring departments, they are the departments that are often involved in contemptuous matters," he said. "(The City Manager's Office) tend to be in the bottom third of those scores. But it's not always those people who had transactions or a bad experience with us; they don't like the outcome (of something in the city), and you're the department."
Some details of the survey included:
• A combined 94 percent of the respondents found the quality of life in Aspen to be "good" or "excellent." Just 1 percent said it was "poor."
"We're not taking credit for that high score," Crook chuckled.
• A combined 36 percent of the respondents either disagreed or strongly disagreed that snow removal from their residential area was not done in a timely matter last winter. Crook said the street department's objective is to clear out the downtown core before hitting other areas.
"The fact is that the emphasis is clearing the core streets and main streets first," he said "Then we go to the neighborhoods."
• Nine percent of those surveyed said the city is too strict in enforcement of the dog poop and leash laws, while 47 percent said the city isn't strict enough.
• Seventeen percent said it is "essential" that the city encourage the development of more lodging; 35 percent regarded it as "not important at all."
• A combined 72 percent said that it is "essential" or "very important" to decrease traffic in town. Ten percent said it is "not important at all."
• Ninety-seven percent said they feel "safe in Aspen as a whole." Three percent disagreed with that assessment.
• Seventy-four percent either strongly supported or somewhat supported Aspen police officers wearing body cameras.
• Fifty-one percent reported that they ride their bike to work at least one day a week. Seventy-eight percent said they go by foot to meetings or run errands within walking distance. Fifty-three percent said they ride the public buses at least one day a week.
• Nearly all of the respondents, 96 percent, said they visit the Aspen Saturday Market, including 21 percent who reported "always."
• In the next 12 months, 69 percent said they plan to install LED light bulbs in their homes. Twelve percent said that prospect is "not at all likely."
The city paid nearly $20,000 to National Research Center to conduct the survey, Crook said.
The entire 85-page survey results are available online at http://bit.ly/2es1AJw.