(Alex Pedersen, publisher of 4toExplore, and a Wallyhood sponsor, recently ran a survey on local issues. Here are the results.)
We heard your voice and the results are HERE. Nearly 400 subscribers from Wallingford to Wedgwood completed our 14-question survey about local issues May 8-10, 2018.
We believe our city government should “conduct official surveys and release results to the public,” as we urged in our Crosscut column entitled, “4 Ideas to Make City Hall Listen.” While our annual survey is not “official,” we hope it advances and clarifies important issues impacting our communities in Wallingford & throughout Northeast Seattle. We published our survey results in Wallyhood last year but a lot has changed since then: we elected a new Mayor, our Councilmember is steamrolling ahead with upzones, and the Mariners are winning baseball games. Here are our 2018 survey results. For a notoriously subjective summary of the new survey, keep reading:
MYSTERIOUS Result: After 6 months of her leadership at City Hall, residents are still unsure of Mayor Jenny Durkan. When asked “Are you happy with the new Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan” an unusually high 50% said “Don’t Know.”
IMPORTANT Result: Most respondents agreed that City Hall should free Wallingford and “The Ave” in the U District from the dramatic upzones City Hall is trying to impose on 27 neighborhoods. For an article on the upzones proposed in Wallingford, see Susanna Lin’s column from January 2018.
URGENT Result: One of the most pressing issues is City Hall’s proposal to spend $8 million to repave 35th Avenue NE. Only 12% support the project, yet City Hall is plowing ahead. This is important to other neighborhoods like Wallingford for several reasons:
- Money save by scaling back the 35th Avenue project could be redeployed for sidewalks and crosswalks elsewhere.
- If City Hall doesn’t listen to Wedgwood, they won’t listen to you either.
- If City Hall refuses to first test the effectiveness of the Roosevelt re-paving before spending millions to re-do 35th Ave, then SDOT’s not likely to test the effectiveness of 35th Ave before reconfiguring NE 40th Street, NE 50th Street, etc.
- If neighborhoods don’t join together, City Hall will continue its divide and conquer/ignore strategy.
In our view, Mayor Durkan should revamp this expensive project by completing only the crosswalk improvements. This would free up some of these tax dollars to address other urgent crosswalk and sidewalk needs throughout Northeast Seattle (65th Street, View Ridge, Lake City, Wallingford, etc) — and throughout the rest of our city. While Mayor Durkan might have been hoping 35th Avenue would be “too local” of an issue to impact her, a trifecta of forces changes the political calculus. Residents are still forming an opinion about Durkan’s leadership, the media has recently published several reports of SDOT over-spending, and there is major opposition to the project. 35th Ave could be a memorable litmus test for the new Mayor in an area of the city that turns out the vote.
LOPSIDED Result: A whopping 88% of respondents said “real estate developers should be required to provide some parking spaces at their new buildings.” This flies in the face of City Council’s recent 8 to 1 vote to loosen the requirement again.
You might remember the most lopsided result in our previous surveys: 85% of residents agreed that “real estate developers should be required to pay Impact Fees to help defray the costs of building new schools, fire stations, and sidewalks as the city’s population grows” (Click HERE and HERE). Because it is so clear Seattleites would like to see their Mayor and City Council impose Impact Fees, we decided to ask the parking question instead this year. It’s important to clear up a false premise repeated by some to confuse the public: if the cost to build housing increases, do those rents or home prices increase? No. Prices are set by the maximum the market will bear. In other words, developers do not voluntarily charge lower rent or lower home prices. Instead, when the cost to build increases, developers and investors make less “profit” (their return on equity decreases).
INTRIGUING Result: Among the qualities people want in their local government leaders, “Accountable” and “Fiscally Responsible” scored by far the highest.
Look here for our other 9 survey questions. Our survey includes Northeast Seattle’s view on the controversial “Head Tax” on businesses with the most revenue as well as answers to the following:
- Do you support Environmental Initiative 1631?
- Should the City Council put Mayor Durkan’s Families and Education Levy on the ballot?
- Do you need more police officers to handle crime in your neighborhood?
Thanks to the hundreds who completed the survey. We know it takes time and we are deeply grateful — especially for your thoughtful written comments that added context and passion to your choices.
Validity of the Survey (a.k.a. no good deed goes unpunished):
- Significant? The good news is that the survey is statistically significant among the universe of our readership (~7,000 subscribers) for www.4toExplore.org. According to statistical tools, such as calculator.net, creative research systems, and surveymonkey.com, we exceed the magic number to achieve statistically significant results. The 387 respondents produce a 95% confidence level, with a margin of error of plus or minus 5 basis points. In other words (subject to the caveats below), we are 95% confident that between 83% and 93% of the 7,000 subscribers (5 below and 5 above 88%) believe developers should provide off-street parking. In fact, most citywide polls survey only 400 people.
- “Self-Selection”? While 100% of our subscribers are above average and good-looking, we acknowledge that they do not represent every adult resident of Northeast Seattle. Those who continue to subscribe to 4toExplore are “self-selected” in that they probably share our newsletter’s overarching concerns about the direction City Hall has been taking. Certainly my sense of humor is not sufficient to keep them reading. Moreover, this is not a pure “random sample” of our readership because only people with the time or interest completed the survey. Of course, even sophisticated live telephone polls have this problem when many respondents interrupted from their dinner of salmon and coffee slam down their phones on the hapless surveyor.
- Objective? We acknowledge that it’s difficult to craft surveys with pure objectivity. Opinions of the designer (me, in this case) surely seep into how questions are phrased. I tried to avoid loaded questions liked, “Come on, do you really want this stupid project to proceed?” But even deciding which questions to ask is subjective. We believe, however, that it’s better to try to ask reasonable questions and to listen to your responses, than not to ask at all.
The limitations of community surveys reinforce the point we made in our Crosscut column: City Hall — with its financial means and public mission — should be the one to conduct and publish surveys for everyone’s benefit. As we said in our previous issue of 4 to Explore, “a sustainable city is where elected officials listen to their constituents. ‘Listening’ does not mean public hearings and blog posts to state concerns — listening means materially changing / re-crafting government policies and budgets to address the concerns of residents….”
To explore more of Wallingford, subscribe to Wallyhood and attend meetings of the Wallingford Community Council and Wallingford Chamber of Commerce. In previous issues of “4 to Explore,” we highlighted other gems of Wallingford including the Wallingford Wurst Festival (September), Wide World Travel Store (now closed), Chutney’s Bistro (Indian cuisine), the Archie McPhee toy store, and Ro Ro’s barbecue. If the vanilla ice cream at Blue Star Café/Pub is not enough, walk a few blocks East on NE 45th Street for ice cream at Molly Moon’s or gelato at Fainting Goat. Also, be sure to visit the Wallingford Farmer’s Market this summer.