Survey finds most Tulsans like city
BY P.J. LASSEK & BRIAN BARBER World staff writers
Thursday, February 24, 2011
2/24/11 at 6:22 AM
Read a presentation of the citizens survey.
Tulsans think their city is a great place to live and overwhelmingly support private development along the Arkansas River, according to survey findings presented to Mayor Dewey Bartlett and two city councilors Wednesday.
Residents are also satisfied with major city services involving police, fire and parks, but they want to see streets improved, the survey shows.
Bartlett said the results were "very positive."
"The worry I had was that it was going to be all gloom and doom like we hear from many people," he said. "That was obviously not the case."
Shapard Research of Oklahoma City was hired to conduct the survey by the Tulsa Community Foundation, which paid $51,000 to the firm. The foundation presented the results to the city as a gift.
Shapard Research selected 200 households in each of the nine City Council districts at random from Dec. 12 to Jan. 21, ending with a total of 1,803. The survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.3 percentage points.
Bill Shapard of the research firm said, "It was very clear in doing this that Tulsans care about their community and really wanted to participate."
Bartlett said the survey would be considered a benchmark. Another will be conducted in a few years, and the results will be compared.
Councilors G.T. Bynum and Rick Westcott said the survey only reinforces what they have heard from their districts' constituents over the years.
"It's good to have hard data, instead of my finger-to-the-wind indicator as to how things are looking," Bynum said.
Westcott agreed, saying the survey would be very valuable to councilors.
Bynum and Westcott were the only councilors who attended the presentation.
Resident perception: The survey found that 77 percent of respondents rated Tulsa as a good to excellent place to live.
The ratings ranged from 58 percent in District 1, which is in north Tulsa, to 90 percent in Districts 7 and 8, which cover areas in south Tulsa.
Although differences exist, Shapard said, "There's really no one area where people are saying: 'We don't like Tulsa. We aren't proud to be Tulsans. And the quality of life isn't good here.' "
Survey respondents listed friendliness, appearance and ease of getting around the city, along with general cleanliness and art deco architecture as some of Tulsa's best attributes.
The city also received similar good-to-excellent ratings as a place to raise children (73 percent), place to work (66 percent), place to retire (64 percent), place to visit (63 percent) and overall quality of life (71 percent).
"There's obviously a lot of Tulsa proud out there," Shapard said.
But when it comes to thinking that Tulsa is moving in the right direction, the good-to-excellent scores dropped to 51 percent, the barest majority.
One quarter of the respondents said they were neutral on that question, which Shapard said essentially means they "believe the jury is still out."
"There's lots of room for improvement in this area," he said.
River and downtown development: A total of 79 percent of those surveyed said "yes" to the question: "Do you support the city moving forward with private developers to develop property along the Arkansas River?"
Westcott and Bynum were pleased to learn about that.
They said the general attitude had been that only the people who live near the river want development and nobody else cares.
"The survey shows that is clearly not the case," Bynum said.
The mayor said he was glad to see strong support in every council district for river development.
"That's significant, in my view," he said.
District 1 had the least support for river development (71 percent), and District 8 had the most (87 percent).
Tulsans are happy with the development that has taken place downtown. A total of 75 percent said they were very to somewhat satisfied with the development efforts in the city's urban core.
Shapard said the respondents seemed to have a "post-recession mentality" regarding the development questions.
"They are ready for the city leadership to come together and move forward together to provide these types of opportunities in Tulsa," he said.
KPMG recommendations: Tulsans are very supportive of many of the suggestions contained in the recent KPMG efficiency review of the city's government.
The survey found that 77 percent of respondents strongly support to somewhat support sharing services with Tulsa County; 70 percent feel the same about public-private partnerships for parks; and 69 percent favor public-private partnerships for the arts.
Also, 68 percent think the city should engage in competitive bidding for services; and 60 percent support a public-private partnership for utilities.
Bartlett said about those findings, "This doesn't give us a slam-dunk, let's go do it." He noted that each of the recommendations need thorough vetting.
Westcott said it was vital that residents be aware of all of the ramifications of putting specific recommendations into effect.
City services: The survey found that 68 percent said that they were very satisfied to somewhat satisfied with police safety, while firefighting services received 88 percent satisfaction. The city's parks had 68 percent very satisfied to somewhat satisfied.
Overall, 73 percent are very satisfied to somewhat satisfied with the quality of city services; 65 percent are happy with the city's appearance; and 62 percent like the city's image.
Only 36 percent expressed satisfaction with the traffic flow on major streets.
Trash collection and the water system also scored high marks, as 89 percent and 87 percent, respectively, said they are very to somewhat satisfied with them.
Code enforcement, however, is where Tulsans want to see improvement. Fewer than half of those surveyed said they were satisfied with the enforcement of removal of junk and mowing in yards.
Street maintenance: Only 31 percent in the survey were satisfied with the condition of major streets. The satisfaction share increases to 58 percent regarding neighborhood streets, to 60 percent on the landscaping of medians and to 62 percent for street cleanliness.
However, only 49 percent said they were satisfied with the progress of the $452 million Fix Our Streets initiative.
Priorities: Looking ahead, Tulsans support setting aside money for specific purposes.
A total of 77 percent surveyed support funding police and fire academies; 71 percent support putting money into the city's newly created "rainy day" fund; 76 support more funding for pothole repair; and 72 percent want more money allocated for mowing.
77 percent rate Tulsa as a good to excellent place to live
51 percent say the city is moving in the right direction
79 percent support Arkansas River development
75 percent are satisfied with downtown development efforts
77 percent support the city sharing services with Tulsa County
87 percent feel safe to walk their neighborhoods in the daytime
54 percent feel safe to walk their neighborhoods in the dark
31 percent are satisfied with street conditions
77 percent support funding police and fire academies
55 percent are satisfied with the city's communication efforts
Original Print Headline: We like Tulsa, despite its streets
P.J. Lassek 581-8382 Brian Barber 581-8322
Efforts to develop downtown Tulsa, such as the construction of the BOK Center, received strong support in the survey. TOM GILBERT/Tulsa World
LaFortune Park and the city's other green spaces find favor with about two-thirds of Tulsans questioned for the survey. JAMES GIBBARD/ Tulsa World file
The cast of "Don Giovanni" rehearses at the Tulsa Performing Arts Center. Nearly 70 percent of the survey respondents support public-private partnerships for the arts. MATT BARNARD/Tulsa World