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Council dissatisfied with draft survey

DEL MAR — They try … and they try … and they try. But council members can’t get no satisfaction as they attempt to create a survey to find out how the city is doing when it comes to providing services on everything from street maintenance to managing finances.

A draft citizen satisfaction survey will be revised for the sixth time after council members at the July 21 meeting deemed the seven-page, 23-question document lengthy and not likely to provide useful information.

“This survey is way too long,” Mayor Lee Haydu said. “We need to go back to the drawing board and condense this. I am not happy with going forward with this survey.”

Councilman Don Mosier agreed. “If you try to get a survey that covers everything, each element gets diluted because you’re getting fewer and fewer people that are going to take the time to complete it.”

Mosier said several questions, such as those focused on walking and biking trails and maintaining landscape medians, probably won’t garner enough responses to make a difference.

He also had concerns that many taking the survey would be people who had complaints.

“So when you get the results you are going to be overrepresented by people who have problems with the city, and you’re going to get a very small number of respondents on a lot of the questions,” he said.

For example, one section asks residents to rate parking enforcement, a topic he said was inappropriate for the type of survey being conducted.

“What you get when you ask that question will be people who have been ticketed in the last year saying, ‘I hate the system.’ People who haven’t been ticketed won’t answer,” he said.

Mosier also questioned what the city would do with the information, especially if only 20 people respond to a particular question and only half are satisfied.

“What do you do if 10 people are unhappy with a service?” he asked.

Haydu said many questions ask about services most people don’t use, such as brush management and emergency medical services.

“When you design a survey you’re trying to get answers that inform policy, and to me some of these questions wouldn’t provide an answer that would inform … new directions,” Mosier said.

We need to ask questions where the answer is somewhat unambiguous, he added.

Because residents have not been asked to rate city services since 2006, a satisfaction survey was identified as a priority for the current fiscal year, with $15,000 budgeted for the effort.

In February council members agreed to use a consultant and expected the questionnaire to be ready by May or June.

But in May they decided to spend half as much money and opted for a hybrid approach, with Probolsky Research and city staff working together to develop, administer and summarize the survey.

Councilmen Terry Sinnott and Al Corti, who have been working with the team to create the questions, said they will take recommendations from their colleagues and try to make the survey shorter and more focused.

However, they will add a section on law enforcement response times because that information was recently updated by the Sheriff’s Department.

The revised survey will be presented at the next council meeting Sept. 2.