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February 20th, 2009
Citizens give city a 'C'

Consultant Richard Lewis, right, talks about citizen summit findings with Councilmembers Kim Porterfield, Fred Terry and John Thomaides (left to right). Photo by Christina Zambrano.

By ANDY SEVILLA
Associate Editor

The preliminary results of the Citizens Summit meetings held throughout town this week illustrate that the San Marcos City Council’s performance on community issues as average, though leaning a little better.

Citizens rated the council in online surveys and 50 percent of the respondents decided the council performed average, while almost thirty percent said the elected officials were good, and nearly one percent identified them as outstanding. On the other hand, 20 percent of those surveyed said the council performs poorly, and about one-and-half percent thinks elected officials haven’t addressed anything at all.

Richard Lewis and Joanne Ford-Robertson, the consultants who ran the study, announced the results Thursday night at the City of San Marcos Conference Center.

“I think the council has done a good job, the city government has done a good job, but you can always do better,” Councilmember Kim Porterfield said. “When you’re trying to please so many different people, I’ll take a ‘C’ (which is the average grade the council received from the community on performance). The city is made up of such different people and you won’t be able to please everyone.”

San Marcos Mayor Susan Narvaiz said she is “pleased” with the results.

“Eighty percent of people think we’re doing good or better,” Narvaiz said. “I think that’s good.”

The study illustrates San Marcos residents as crediting the council average or above average in executing its tasks. Ford-Robertson said the council was “very rarely” graded below average.

“Citizens feel the council is working toward the goals and are trying,” Robertson said. “But there is a long time to go.”

Information for the study was compiled from approximately 150 completed online surveys and from 25 citizens who attended at least one out of five focus group meetings held on Wednesday and Thursday.

“The purpose is to facilitate a community summit and visioning process for the city of San Marcos, Texas that combines input from citizens and the city council regarding future planning efforts,” Lewis said.

The online surveys presented data identifying the provision of basic city services, supporting smart growth and enhancing economic development as the top three “very important” issues affecting San Marcos. When pressed to distinguish the most important issue for the city, online survey respondents spoke on enhancing environmental protection.

The focus groups identified supporting smart growth as the most important issue, followed by the provision of basic city needs. Ford-Robertson and Lewis found that during the next two years, some important issues affecting San Marcos include:

·         Economic Development (living wage jobs)

·         Infrastructure (bike lanes, walk paths, etc.)

·         Transportation

·         Housing (affordable, single-family homes, etc.)

·         Traffic Coordination

·         Code Compliance (graffiti, bulk waste, etc.)

·         Human Capital of School District

·         Regional Plan (sustainable development to protect the environment)

·         Water Conservation

·         University Congestion (buses, sidewalks, etc.)

·         River Protection, and

·         Improving the image to attract economic development (desired development with living wage jobs.)

“I think we have a really good grasp from citizens, city management, and elected officials on what they want for the community,” Lewis said.

Narvaiz said the council is arduously working towards meeting the demand of the citizens. She said the council takes to “heart” the work that it does.

“I don’t know if the people are aware that we are working hard on what they want,” Narvaiz said. “I want us to do outstanding in everything.”

But to reach “outstanding” results, Narvaiz urged residents to come forward with their suggestions, comments, and concerns.

“We’re trying to reach people, all of our residents, to hear from them and know what it is they want,” Narvaiz said.

Lewis said growth issues are not isolated to San Marcos. He said the state of Texas as a whole is experiencing rapid population growth, pointing out that the state’s present population of 24.5 million stands to grow to 38 million in 2042. Lewis said San Marcos has the opportunity to grow without losing is character.

“You, as citizens, are being heard as it relates to the (visioning) process,” Lewis said.

This is the fifth year the city has administered a citizen summit session. The surveys are used to enhance quantitative information. The “typical respondent” on the online survey was a white, professional female between the ages of 26 and 45 with a bachelor’s degree, who owns her home, has a household income of $75,000 or greater, and has lived in the city less than five years.

There were few racial minority participants and Texas State University students were represented in low numbers. The online survey will be conducted through Feb. 28 and can be found on the city’s website (ci.san-marcos.tx.us).

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0 thoughts on “Citizens give city a 'C'

  1. Wow, so the council is being held accountable for what they do. This grade, although average is okay, should tell the council that there is more to be done. The citizens have outlined what seems to be the priorities they want addressed, and in them, tax abatements for retail is not included! Council needs to grasp what the citizens have so loudly said.
    I agree with Mayor Narvaiz that we, as citizens, should let the council know what we want. Not just through this summit, but at every council meeting that is held.

  2. I took the survey online and hopefully added to the efforts of our citizens and city government. I must say our council did not get the best rating, but they did get an acceptable one. However, more CAN and SHOULD be done! Lets take the mayor up on her word, and voice our concerns to her and the rest of the council. I hope the survey and focus groups represent all concerns and issues well, therefore allowing the council information on what we want prioritized. And yes, tax abatements for retail is not a priority – far from it.

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  4. Protip for Mayor Narvaiz: When 50% rate your preformance “Average” and 30% rate it “Good”, that doesn’t mean 80% say your are doing a good job. It means 30% think you are doing a good job, and 50% think you are doing an average job.

  5. Yeah, the math was kind of lost on me, too. It is also interesting to see that there weren’t a whole lot of minorities or students participating.

    According to the US census bureau, 30-40% of our population are minorities and it would be difficult for anyone to argue that the students are not a significant part of San Marcos.

    I already know people are going to say “they had the same opportunity to comment as the rest of us.” That’s true, but if you are trying to figure out how *the city* feels, then any feedback that does not include these groups (for whatever reason) is flawed and any conclusions drawn are very suspect.

  6. Yeah the math doesnt really add up, but of course city officials will always spin the facts in their favor. I wonder what the new results will be when the whole online survey is finalized. Although the study is not really representative, I think its a move in the right direction, even though it may be flawed. However, the study is not the do-all say-all, we can and should voice our concerns at every city council meeting possible.

  7. I’ve been in this city for more than five years and don’t know anyone who fits this profile. It appears the survey is a bit skewed statistically when compared to the true demographics. What is the sense in doing a survey if the voice of the people isn’t heard???

    “The “typical respondent” on the online survey was a white, professional female between the ages of 26 and 45 with a bachelor’s degree, who owns her home, has a household income of $75,000 or greater, and has lived in the city less than five years.”

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