Survey: Woodbury ranks high in safety, lower in community engagement

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Woodbury residents enjoy an exceptional quality of life and overall feeling of safety, but see lags in diversity and community engagement, according to the results of a recent survey.

The city conducts the survey every two years to gauge residents' feelings on what the city does well and which aspects could use improvement.

Earlier this year, 1,500 randomly selected residents received a 30-question survey asking them to rate factors like livability and quality of city services.

About 460 people — 32 percent of those surveyed — responded.

The community typically scores high ratings on overall quality of life.

The broad category earned a "good" or "excellent" rating from 92 percent of respondents to this year's survey.

Since 1999, more than 90 percent of survey respondents rated Woodbury's quality of life good or excellent. The peak rating occurred in both 2009 and 2011, when 99 percent responses indicated good or excellent.

Woodbury also earned a similarly high score for overall public safety, with "good" or "excellent" ratings from 95 percent of respondents. This represents a 1 percent increase over 2015.

Despite high ratings overall, the survey found lower levels of community involvement.

About 40 percent of survey respondents reported strong ties to their neighborhood and the community in 2017, while a similar percentage of residents said they did not. Similar results were reported in 2015.

About 65 percent of respondents reported feeling a strong sense of community in Woodbury.

Although these numbers rank lower than other criteria rated in the questionnaire, City Council members agreed at a June 21 workshop that the percentage stacks up well compared to other similarly-sized communities.

"The thing that we scored the lowest on, the general sense of community, is not low, it's low for us," City Council member Amy Scoggins said at a June 21 workshop. "This could be something where you could never reach 90."

Council members discussed staff recommendations for fostering a welcoming and inclusive community, one of three strategic initiatives the city identified for 2015-2017.

One recommendation was establishing a Citizen's Academy for teens and improved outreach for high school students to serve on city commissions.

Mayor Mary Giuliani Stephens suggested working with schools to reach students who might not typically get involved with the city, while council member Andrea Date recommended visits to high school government classes to talk about opportunities with the city.

Another recommendation was developing a city-wide volunteer program.

Giuliani Stephens said that despite the reported low level of engagement, Woodbury city government typically receives more applications than slots available — a rarity in some communities, and that she usually sees a good turnout for volunteer opportunities.

"Part of me says 'you see the results,' but we'll have to see how it trends and keep our language the same, because I'm not seeing that," she said.

Survey results also yielded a comparatively low scores for diversity.

About 86 percent of respondents identified themselves as white, with Asian Americans accounting for about 8 percent followed by African Americans at 5 percent.

About 66 percent of survey participants rated the "openness and acceptance of the community toward people of diverse backgrounds" as good or excellent.

City staff recommended offering training and outreach to encourage people of color and marginalized people to serve on city boards and commissions.

Full survey results are available for download at bit.ly/2rI3Gcr.

Other findings:

 • Affordable housing topped residents concerns. About 22 percent of survey respondents identified the issue as Woodbury's most serious issue, followed by traffic congestion at 15 percent and taxes at 15 percent.

• Relatively high approval ratings for the mayor and City Council members have remained stable since 2001, when residents were first asked to rate city government. Although about 40 percent of respondents said they had no opinion, about 85 percent of those that did take a stance said they either approved or strongly approved of city government.