Visalia sees “normal” city survey once again

Visalia surveys residents on the quality of city fire and police services, measures quality of life

VISALIA – After a pandemic-ridden year and a season of environmental concerns, the city of Visalia is finally rolling out a “normal” survey this year that concerns general city services.

For over 50 years, Visalia has offered an annual survey to its residents in order to evaluate their services and receive opinions from those who live, work and play in Visalia. This year’s survey is back to general questions, inquiring about their police and fire services, as well as typical city business. This comes after a turbulent few years with COVID and environmental concerns taking precedence in surveys during prior years. The survey will be available Feb. 24 through March 24.

“This is an important opportunity for all Visalians to ensure their voice is heard by sharing their ideas and concerns regarding all city services,” CAC staff liaison and public works manager, Jason Serpa said. “The survey asks a range of questions, but the main goal is to find out what is important to the people of Visalia and how we can improve the way we serve them.”

Some of those survey questions ask respondents to rate various city services and programs, ranging from police and fire emergency responses to recreational activities and road maintenance. There is also an open-ended opportunity for respondents to help shape the future of Visalia by providing ideas directly to city staff and council.

“We urge all Visalia residents to take the public opinion survey to make a difference in their own backyard and share it with everyone they know to make an impact for the entire city,” CAC Staff Liaison and Police Lieutenant Luma Fahoum said. “The City of Visalia and the City Council review the survey responses and use the information to better understand what is important for our community and make impactful changes.”

Last year, Visalia’s annual public opinion survey looked a little different. It asked more questions about reducing air pollution, as well as improving access for disabled residents. This was because the city was trying to find ways to incorporate the needs of two ex-committees which were absorbed in 2021 by the now all-encompassing Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC). The CAC is tasked with drafting the survey each year. The city council dissolved the long-standing Visalia Environmental Committee and Disability Advocacy Committee and then appointed two members from each of them to the CAC. Councilmembers said the decision would give the CAC more of a voice in the city’s decision-making process, such as having input into the public opinion survey, which is why the questions were more specific.

In 2021, the survey took a different turn as well, as it was distributed during the peak of the pandemic. The survey showed less than half of Visalians felt COVID impacted them significantly, and about 9 out of 10 people felt their quality of life was average or above. Eighty-nine percent of respondents viewed their quality of life as being average to very high compared to 92% the previous year. Those saying they had a “low” quality of life were the same as 2019 while those who answered “very low” doubled from the previous two years. Not only that, but 46% of the population said it was affected by COVID “a lot,” more than 44% said only “a little” and about 10% said “not at all.” Those 55 and older said COVID affected them at a higher rate while those 18 to 34 were more likely to say not at all. Low-income residents, those making between $15,000 and $40,000 felt the effects of COVID far more than those who make $100,000 or more.

The majority of the survey remains unchanged from year to year to better measure trends and changes in public opinion. The city has conducted the public opinion survey since the 1970’s to gauge the sentiments and opinions of citizens regarding various city services, programs and projects. The survey has been conducted in various formats through the years, including online and in person. Due to the pandemic last year, the survey was only conducted online. This year, the CAC Committee is willing to conduct in person surveys once again at various locations throughout the city.

If residents need a physical survey form sent to them directly, they can request a mail-in survey by calling (559) 713-4535 or emailing [email protected]. A physical survey form can be picked up and returned at a variety of city of Visalia buildings such as:

  • Administration: 220 N. Santa Fe St.
  • Anthony Community Center: 345 N. Jacob St.
  • City Hall East: 315 E. Acequia Ave.
  • City Hall West: 707 W. Acequia Ave

In addition to the Public Opinion Survey, the Visalia City Council has created another opportunity for citizens to share their feedback or ask questions in a casual one-on-one setting. Council Corner is hosted on the second Monday of each month at City Hall West, located at 707 W. Acequia Ave. Walk-ins are available from 5:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. and appointments are available from 6 p.m. to 6:40 p.m. To schedule an appointment for any 2023 Council Corner, visit bit.ly/councilcorner or call (559) 713-4404.

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