Recently the City of Salem released the results of its 2021 Community Satisfaction Survey, which is conducted annually by contacting a random sample of about 400 residents.
Download City of Salem 2021 Community Satisfaction Survey - September 2021
Not surprisingly, city officials put a positive spin on the results in their Salem Connection email blurb.
Ah, note the mention of "core City services." It's true that most people, 70%, are satisfied with city services. But that's a big drop from the 86% satisfaction in 2020. Since Covid was with us in both years, the pandemic doesn't seem to be the reason for the decline in satisfaction.
Something else is. The report's authors note that satisfaction also is down in other Oregon cities and Oregon as a whole, but we don't know if there are special circumstances in Salem causing dissatisfaction.
Thus it appears that Salem residents have become more cranky in general with how things are going in Salem. And a large percentage blame the City of Salem in whole or in part. The question asked was, "All in all, would you say things in Salem are headed in the right direction, or are things off on the wrong track?"
Almost two thirds, 65%, say "wrong track," up from just 41% in 2020. Those saying "right track" dropped from 38% in 2020 to 23% in 2021.
Regardless, 91% say that whichever track Salem is on, this is either mainly or partially because of actions the City of Salem has taken. This is close to the 90% who said this in 2020, the big difference being an increase in those who say "mainly because of actions the City has taken" -- up from 22% in 2020 to 34% in 2021.
Even more striking is that of the 65% who consider that Salem is on the wrong track, 40% percent say this is mainly the City's fault.
This means 26% of Salem residents think Salem is on the wrong track and actions of City officials are the main reason (.65 x .40). Only a small percentage overall, 7%, absolve the City, saying that the direction Salem is going is mainly because of circumstances outside the City's control.
You can see that concern about homelessness has steadily increased from 7% in 2016 to 58% in 2021. Of course, people have different reasons for this concern. Some feel compassion for the plight of homeless people. Others focus on the ugliness of homeless camps and their effect on surrounding neighborhoods, including crime.
Whatever the reason, homelessness is by far the first thing that people in Salem think about when asked what issue is most important for the City of Salem to do something about.
Covid is the #2 concern at 8%. After that no concern was the first mention of more than 4%, though if you add together "roads, potholes, infrastructure," "traffic congestion," and "additional bridge," it could be argued that roads are on the mind of 5% of the population.
But "additional bridge" got only 1%, four people out of 400. This shows that the frenzy over the Third Bridge has virtually disappeared after the City Council voted to kill the project several years ago.
Likewise, "police reform" got exactly zero mentions, following 3% in 2020 when Black Lives Matter protests were in full swing. This goes a long way toward explaining why the City Council's efforts at police reform have been decidedly minimal. It's a big concern to a small number of people, but is the top concern of very few, maybe none.
Of course, it would be nice to know the top three concerns, say, of those who took part in the survey. Still, it appears that in next year's races for City Council and Mayor, candidates would be wise to focus on homelessness and income equality/poverty.
And obviously even if few people (1%) mention "environment" as their top concern, this doesn't mean the City of Salem should downplay the Climate Action Plan currently being developed. Some issues demand attention because of their evident importance, no matter how many people have it as a #1 concern.
The same could be said for all of the issues below, really. Each has passionate advocates. That's what politics and community involvement is all about -- allowing everybody to speak out about what concerns them, then sorting out which issues deserve the most attention.