Highs and lows

SYDNEY SCHAEFER/WATERTOWN DAILY TIMESOn a recent survey, people gave high approval ratings for what is occurring in downtown Watertown.

Surveys gauging qualify-of-life issues in Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence counties, overseen by staff members and students of Jefferson Community College, offer a roadmap for future improvements.

The Center for Community Studies released the results of its 20th annual survey of Jefferson County residents last week. Representatives of the center presented their findings at a meeting of the General Services Committee of the Jefferson County Board of Legislators.

“The annual survey is an inventory of the attitudes, opinions and behaviors of a representative sample of Jefferson County adult residents, with the interviews completed every year in the month of April,” according to a June 11 news release issued by the center. “The primary goal of the survey is to collect data regarding quality-of-life issues of importance to local citizens. This study provides an annual ‘snapshot’ of life in the county.”

JCC students conducted 325 telephone interviews from April 8 to 10. They also received 131 online surveys between April 10 and 25. In addition, 125 intercept interviews were conducted April 15 on Fort Drum.

These surveys provide valuable insights into how residents view conditions that affect them. We commend the JCC students and staff members who dedicate their time to this project each year. If community leaders are wise, they’ll pay attention to what people are saying.

Officials at the center noted that satisfaction among Jefferson County residents with various factors decreased from 2008 to 2014 in the wake of the Great Recession. However, this outlook improved between 2016 and 2018.

What’s interesting is that the ratings given by residents for most quality-of-life issues dipped from 2018 to 2019. The center describes this as “a dampening of spirits slightly from the all-time highs measured during the post-recession period of the preceding 3 to 4 years …”

The one exception in this trend was how people viewed the downtown of Watertown, which received a higher rating for being excellent this year than it did last year.

Also, fewer people rated some of the indicators as poor in 2019 as compared to 2018. This reflects well on the work that Watertown officials, developers, entrepreneurs and residents have invested toward breathing new life into this business district.

Here are the figures for the 12 quality-of-life indicators:

n Access to higher education — 66.2 percent excellent or good in 2019 (74.4 percent in 2018), 20.6 percent excellent in 2019 (23.5 percent in 2018), 4.6 percent poor in 2019 (5.7 percent in 2018).

n Quality of the environment — 64.4 percent excellent or good in 2019 (66.9 percent in 2018), 15.7 percent excellent in 2019 (18.8 percent in 2018), 6.1 poor in 2019 (7.2 percent in 2018).

n The overall quality of life in the area — 61.7 percent excellent or good in 2019 (66.0 percent in 2018), 10.9 percent excellent in 2019 (13.4 percent in 2018), 9.3 percent poor in 2019 (6.7 percent in 2018).

n Quality of K-12 education — 60.9 percent excellent or good in 2019 (65.3 percent in 2018), 16.9 percent excellent in 2019 (18.2 percent in 2018), 6.0 percent poor in 2019 (3.8 percent in 2018).

n Health care quality — 51.3 percent excellent or good in 2019 (59.7 percent in 2018), 10.5 percent excellent in 2019 (13.4 percent in 2018), 13.0 percent poor in 2019 (9.6 percent in 2018).

n Availability of housing — 50.5 percent excellent or good in 2019 (58.7 percent in 2018), 10.5 percent excellent in 2019 (15.4 percent in 2018), 13.3 percent poor in 2019 (9.1 percent in 2018).

n County government — 35.5 percent excellent or good in 2019 (41.0 percent in 2018), 3.1 percent excellent in 2019 (5.9 percent in 2018), 14.7 percent poor in 2019 (12.6 percent in 2018).

n The downtown of Watertown — 34.7 percent excellent or good in 2019 (40.0 percent in 2018), 6.1 percent excellent in 2019 (5.8 percent in 2018), 14.9 percent poor in 2019 (21.0 percent in 2018).

n Cultural/entertainment opportunities — 34.4 percent excellent or good in 2019 (48.7 percent in 2018), 7.8 percent excellent in 2019 (7.9 percent in 2018), 23.8 percent poor in 2019 (12.4 percent in 2018).

n The overall state of the local economy — 32.5 percent excellent or good in 2019 (35.6 percent in 2018), 3.4 percent excellent in 2019 (3.8 percent in 2018), 21.2 percent poor in 2019 (17.4 percent in 2018).

n Availability of good jobs — 24.1 percent excellent or good in 2019 (28.0 percent in 2018), 4.6 percent excellent in 2019 (5.2 percent in 2018), 31.5 percent poor in 2019 (29.3 percent in 2018).

n Real estate taxes — 16.7 percent excellent or good in 2019 (22.5 percent in 2018), 3.2 percent excellent in 2019 (4.8 percent in 2018), 30.7 percent poor in 2019 (30.4 percent in 2018).

After a period of perceived improvement in these categories, a sense of disenchantment seems to have gripped residents this year. It’s good that the outlook for improvement for most of these indicators remains better than it was a decade ago.

The recent drop in satisfaction, however, demonstrates a need for community leaders to address the concerns of residents. Scrutinizing the results of this survey is essential for raising people’s hopes for better days ahead.

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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(2) comments

JohnMcElroy

Not a bad thing but is this a new major or minor and do credits apply to successful conclusion. We do have safety nets that support what we lack and we have negatives that keep industry and business away ie., frigid weather a majority of the year. Climate and politics the energy or lack of that drive economies.

Evernay Umpertray

I always look forward to the JCC annual survey and read it with interest. As for Watertown, let’s hope that the political direction takes us away from too many years of gutter radio and promoting Watertown as a bar town.

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