2019 Olmsted County Residential Survey

Bruce Kaskubar analysis, commentary, news

County surveys were performed in 2008, -13, -16, and -19. 2019’s results report is 247 pages long and available on the county web site.

Quality of Life and Community
What one thing do you like most about living in Olmsted County?

37% Quality of life in general top answer
16% Location second answer
: [six other answers] scored 3-10%
02% Schools, Employment, Other three-way tie
01% Bike paths first time on survey
00% Low taxes bottom answer; consistent across all four surveys

Just about – or exactly – nobody is here for the low taxes. Just about nobody is here for the bike paths. (The bike path option was provided on the survey. In years past, answers only came from those surveyed.) Only 2% are here for our schools.

County Characteristics
Please rate each of the following characteristics as they relate to Olmsted County as a whole
(0=poor, 100=excellent)

75 place to raise a family top answer
: [eight other answers] scored 47-73
28 Availability of affordable housing down from 41 in 2016 and 50 in 2013
26 Availability of affordable child care down from 41 in 2016 and 51 in 2013

What are the factors affecting providers to help explain the halving of the score for this item? We expect the government to “solve” the problem by providing subsidies to those who cannot afford child care or to coax new providers into the marketplace. But! The government already provides subsidies. We’ll be digging into this some more.

Potential Problems
Please rate to what degree, if at all, each of the following is a problem in Olmsted County
(0=not a problem, 100=major problem)

65 High taxes #1 in score and change, up from 52 in 2016, +25%
: [five other answers] scored 49-63
45 Traffic congestion #2 by change, up from 37 in 2016, +22%
43 Traffic safety bottom answer

The county, city, and Rochester school board have all been raising taxes in excess of the rate of inflation for quite a few years. People are aware.

How much of the traffic trouble is due to getting rid of driving lanes? Some city council members would say none at all but such a position defies reason and mathematics.

pie chartEvaluation of Government Services
Please rate the Olmsted County government at fulfilling its vision: “A dynamic, world-class County delivering excellence every day.”

For some reason, the government slightly overstated the results in its favor. It published a pie chart of the answers (reproduced here) and said that “half of residents rated … excellent or good.” We’ll grant that 49% is about half but those who rated it Fair or Poor actually made it to 50%. About them, the report said, “4 in 10 rated it as fair, while 1 in 10 thought … poor.” Well, as an approximation, “1 in 9” is 10x closer to the 11% “Poor” than is the report’s use of “1 in 10”.

Maybe we’re complaining about lipstick but let’s expect straight talk from a government-for-the-people striving for world-class excellence. In any case, 49% satisfaction seems a number worth working to improve.

County Government Performance
Please rate the following categories of Olmsted County government performance:
(0=poor, 33=fair, 67=good, 100=excellent)

54 The value of Olmsted County services to the quality of life in my neighborhood
: [five other answers] scored 44-52
44 Listening to residents
44 Value for taxes paid
40 Managing tax dollars
40 My knowledge of the county’s work

Might we call the average of 46.5 out of 100, “adequate”? Scores in the 40s should be cause for serious introspection. The last item is mostly (?) out of the county’s control and is a questionable inclusion in this section. Perhaps it’s the excuse to discard any survey result. After all, if respondents have limited knowledge, how valid are their answers? This can be a serious question or an insincere one.

Benchmark Comparisons

Some of the results were compared to a collection of 62 counties from around the country deemed similar to Olmsted. Overall, benchmarks can be of limited value. First, how realistic are the benchmark counties? Second, satisfaction is always related to expectation. Expectations across the benchmark counties are unknown. They’re even unknown across the respondent population of our own county.

Good news

Olmsted ranked “Much higher” than the benchmark counties in perceived work satisfaction, employment opportunities, public transportation options, road maintenance, land use, and overall impression of county employees.

Bad News

Olmsted ranked “Much lower” than the benchmark counties in affordable child care. There were no comparisons published regarding taxes, traffic, taxpayer value, and performance, items for which the survey showed significant dissatisfaction.