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  Richmond Residents More Satisfied with City, Still Concerned about Crime
May 27, 2011

Richmond residents more satisfied with city, still concerned about crime

By Hannah Dreier
Contra Costa Times
Posted: 05/25/2011 05:59:26 PM PDT
Updated: 05/26/2011 05:34:50 PM PDT

Read the survey

RICHMOND -- The city is still failing to meet residents' expectations across the board, despite incremental progress in nearly all areas over the past several years.
That's according to a newly released community survey, which found that residents are generally unhappy with schools, code enforcement and transportation here, among other things.
Just 49 percent of residents would recommend Richmond as a place to live, and a majority feel unsafe in their neighborhood after dark.
None of this is news to officials, who said Tuesday that they still have a long way to go in tackling the city's well-known challenges.
"I've come to look forward to (the survey) with some trepidation," City Manager Bill Lindsay said. "I'm always worried about how we're going to do, but I'm also really interested."
Outsiders have commended the city for commissioning this biennial survey since 2007. These types of questionnaires are common in more affluent communities, but officials in some cities tend to avoid them, in part out of fear of what they might find, according to Tom Miller, president of the National Research Center, which conducted the survey.
Though most community indicators have held steady or improved despite a crushing recession, Richmond residents are still dissatisfied with everything from quality of life to roads and infrastructure.
Any improvements are relative. For example, 19 percent of residents rated the city's code enforcement as "good" or better -- up from just 10 percent in 2009. The city has made a concerted effort on this front in recent years, Lindsay said.
Residents are feeling more upbeat about city recreation and child care services, and are pleased with the knowledge and courtesy of city staff members.
The news was less positive for public transportation and fire and ambulance services, which residents rated more poorly than in years past.
Virtually no one said they felt safe at night downtown, though 42 percent feel safe in their own neighborhoods after dark. And 51 percent of residents rated police services favorably.
In their to-do list for the city, residents put a priority on street improvements and job training and were less interested in city-sponsored art and athletic fields.
The City Council was blunt in its assessment of the scores, which are among the very lowest of the 350 cities the Research Center surveys.
"Next to dead last in the whole country," said Councilman Tom Butt, who championed the introduction of the survey. "It's hard to believe. You get a picture of people being extremely cynical and unhappy about Richmond."
Homicides and other crimes have dropped in recent years, and officials have for the most part avoided drastic budget cuts amid the recession.
Mayor Gayle McLaughlin said the city was turning itself around, but had a long way to go.
There were some indications that Richmond residents were selling themselves short. For example, 59 percent rated their neighborhood as either a "good" or "excellent" place to live, but only 32 percent endorsed the city as a whole.
The city paid the Research Center about $30,000 to produce the survey. The center mailed questionnaires to 3,000 eligible households and received 500 back, giving them a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points. Researchers weighted the results using a formula designed to reflect the city's demographics.
Butt echoed the frustration of many on the council when he said that the city was improving in the eyes of residents but not as fast as it needs to.
"Even though you're going in the right direction, it would take 100 years to even get to average," he said.
Contact Hannah Dreier at 510-262-2787. Follow her at Twitter.com/hannahdreier.
Online Read the survey at bit.ly/mN5W5O.