One of the most important lessons I have learned during my 27 years in municipal government is that politicians don’t have all the answers and neither do the so-called “experts.” The reality is that, when it comes to knowing what’s best for our community, elected officials should seize every opportunity to seek the advice of the real experts - the people who actually live here.
That’s why I always welcome the findings of HRM’s annual Citizen Survey and this year’s edition is no exception; it provides valuable feedback on how we are doing as a community and offers helpful input to Council in terms of municipal programs, procedures and policies. I’d like to share some of the 2012 results with you:
An encouraging 94 per cent of those surveyed feel their quality of life in the HRM is “good” or “very good” and nearly 75 per cent believe it has remained the same or improved over the past five years.
Asked what HRM could do to improve the quality of residents’ lives, I found it interesting to note that lowering taxes came second (25 per cent) to improving public transit (38 per cent). In third place (22 per cent) was the suggestion to tackle social issues such as homelessness, affordable housing and better education, all of which are beyond the municipality’s jurisdictional reach. And speaking of taxes, I note that more than seven in 10 respondents believe that they are receiving “very good” or “somewhat good” value for the property taxes they pay!
On the issue of traffic congestion, residents were asked to rank their priorities to ease the problem. Some 61 per cent voted for an improved transit system; 41 per cent favour an investment in commuter rail; and 28 per cent would like to see improvements in HRM’s bike-lane network.
One of the key aspects of the annual Citizen Survey is the issue of public safety and I’m encouraged to learn that, once again, most HRM residents (88 per cent) are either completely satisfied or mostly satisfied with the peace and order in their neighbourhoods. It is also reassuring to note that 85 per cent of citizens are completely or mostly satisfied with the quality of policing here and that 82 per cent feel completely safe or very safe in their community.
Overall, I am encouraged by the survey’s findings; however, I know that there is always room for improvement. For example, this year 57 per cent of respondents said they want greater opportunities to participate in municipal decision-making. They suggest that HRM conduct more frequent public surveys along with more community and town hall meetings. Valuable ideas like these, along with all the other information in the survey, contribute to making our community an even more liveable place and I would like to thank all of you who participated.
I welcome your feedback. Please contact me at email@example.com or phone 490-4010.