Westminster came out good as a place to live with a decent quality of life and decent city services according to the 2022 Community Survey, released June 18.
Housing, crime, growth and homeless …
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Housing, crime, growth and homeless continue to be problems for the city, residents said in the survey — problems that have worsened since 2018. Overall, citizen satisfaction continued to trend down compared to years past, despite the good scores.
Ryan Murray of ETC Institute presented the survey’s findings to city councilors on July 18. The survey received 1,006 responses and was a random sample of households based on the city's three school districts, Jefferson County, Adams 12 Five Star and Westminster Public Schools.
Murray said that based on those returns, 95 out of 100 times the survey is completed again, the same results will occur, with a 3.1% margin of error.
From the survey, 83% of respondents rated the city as an excellent place to live, while 70% of respondents rated the city as a good place for children and 70% of respondents said they are satisfied with the overall quality of life in the city.
The city came out on top in a number of categories compared to the Front Range. For the quality of overall city services, Westminster ranked 16 points above the regional Front Range average and 10 points above the U.S. average. The city rated 12 points above the regional Font Range average and 18 points above the U.S. average for the value received for City tax dollars and fees.
That’s good for Westminster residents because the quality of police, fire and ambulance services is the most important to them, the survey found.
Not everything was rosy. Less than half of the respondents, only 48%, said they think the city is headed in the right direction, 22% said it isn’t and 30% said they didn’t know.
Murray didn't present those downward trends of respondents' satisfaction in his presentation to the city council. The information was included in the packet given to the council, but not discussed. Overall satisfaction was measured on a five-point scale and the percentages measure the number of respondents who rated the item a 4 or 5, according to the written report.
For the quality of life, the city received 71%, continuing a four-year downward trend. In 2018 it was 87% and in 2020, 82%. As a place to raise children, the city received 70%. It was 82% in 2018 and 81% in 2020. For value received for City tax dollars and fees, the city scored 52%, but that was a decline from 68% in 2018 and 66% in 2020.
In fact, out of 22 categories that measured resident satisfaction, the only category that wasn’t lower than in years past was the flow of traffic on city streets, which went from 36% in 2020 to 45% in 2022.
“The summary or feeling of this report is ‘it’s a great city to live in,” said City Councilor Obi Ezeadi. “I think that’s true for a lot of people, but not for everyone.”
Problems Trending Upward
High cost of housing, crime, too much growth and homelessness are the biggest problems that survey respondents think Westminster is facing and those problems continue to trend upward.
High cost of housing went from 68% in 2018 to 74% in 2022, crime went from 52% in 2018 to 72% in 2022, too much growth from 58% in 2018 to 66% in 2022 and homelessness from 37% in 2018 to 62% in 2022.
Mayor Pro Tem David DeMott noted the increases in crime and homelessness in his comments following the presentation.
“It’s a huge increase in (how) people consider that a problem,” he said.
He wants the council to begin to crack down on crime and homelessness.
City Councilor Sarah Nurmela said she was annoyed by the presentation since certain information was left out.
“That should be reported,” she said, in regards to housing.
Nurmela said that with housing as a primary problem in the city, it should be included in the council's strategic plan. Westminster’s Strategic Priorities are preparedness and resilience, proactive public safety, a shared sense of community, quality of life and robust infrastructure.
The survey said only 81% own a home and 18% rent, and over 50% of residents say they spend over 30% of their monthly household income on housing, with 10% spending 50%-75% of income on housing.
Regarding Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, 28% of respondents said they disagree that the City addresses social, economic and racial equity differences in housing. Another 37% said they were neutral, 18% said they somewhat agree and 17% said they agree.
“There is that disconnect of what we are trying to do and 70% of our residents are suffering from not affordable housing,” she said.
Most of the dissatisfied responses come from the south of Westminster. In a map of all the respondents, the only Very Dissatisfied responses came from the southern portion of the city.
Nurmela mentioned how the dissatisfaction correlates to household income, quality of life, how safe they feel and their access to health and mental health care.
“These are key issues that shouldn’t be looked over,” she said.
Ezeadi said that Westminster has about an 8% poverty rate, and most of those residents live in the south of the city. He wants a deeper dive into that topic.
“There are thousands and thousands of residents that cannot live, who are struggling to survive,” he said. “We need to do better for the people who have less.”
City Councilor Bruce Baker disagreed.
“To my colleagues who want to mitigate economic inequities: that’s not the city’s job,” he said. “The city’s job is fire, police, water, code enforcement, building permits, consumer safety, items like that.”
DeMott agreed with Baker and said he has always been a key proponent of core services. He thinks the survey validates the strategic plan.
In the Importance-Satisfaction Analysis section, the survey reads “Two of the most important criteria for decision making are (1) to target resources toward services of the highest importance to citizens; and (2) to target resources toward those services where citizens are the least satisfied.”
Nurmela pushed back and said while a municipalities role is to provide core services, they also receive federal funds to address inequities.
She noted the food desert in the southern part of Westminster and called on the economic development efforts of the city to aid in a solution. Baker and DeMott said the city attempted multiple times to help place a grocery store there, but they all failed.
“It doesn’t take that much effort as a city to make those connections between developers and money and our residents,” she said.
“I can give you lists and lists of cities across Colorado who have great core services and are addressing serious issues that their residents are facing,” Ezeadi said. “It’s disingenuous to say these are just our city’s responsibilities and that’s it.”
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