"Citizen Engagement" Survey Misses the Point

    Problems with Hayden's Citizen Engagement Survey

    At the January 10th meeting, Hayden City Council will consider a proposal to pay a company called Onpoint Insights, $16K to do a “Citizen Engagement Survey” in order to help the City Adminstrators plan for growth.  The Contract is at this link, item 4.D.   

    “CityPOV” is a “Feedback System created by experts. . . . Topics covered include . . .City Affinity . . Benefits . . Growth Management . . . Safety . . .   Budget . . . Operations. . . .  Key Demographics.  . . . and TWO customizable questions.” — Onpoint contract

    There are many problems with this survey.    First of all, CityPOV is a more-or-less canned survey that cities can use to "engage citizens" but it only allows two "customizable" questions.   What the Hayden City Council had suggested as a response to citizen complaints was a survey that would give meaningful insights into problems with "growth", and specifically, citizen dissatisfaction with the existing 2040 Comp Plan.  A generic "citzen engagement" survey, covering many unrelated topics,  intended to distract residents from the glaring problems with the new zoning codes and Future Land Use Map is not what is needed.

    Another problem is that the survey company has set an extremely low bar for expected response rate.   “We commonly get a 5-10% response rate and hope for 800-1000 responses.”  This works out to over $15 PER RESPONSE, and does not manage to poll a worthwhile percentage of the cities population.   Worse, since the survey is entirely electronic, it will exclude residents who are not active online and may over sample well-connected groups. 

    And still worse, the reliability of an electronic survey is inherently questionable.  “The City will provide QR codes and Survey Links."  Who exactly will the City provide QR codes and links to?  How will the survey company verify that the respondents are authentic Hayden residents?   WIth only a 5% response rate, a potentially biased selection of respondents, and an unclear method of verifcation of residency, the results would be meaningless.  

    And even if such a survey could provide authoritative guidance, it wouldn't be needed because . . . 

    Hayden City leaders already know the Concerns of Hayden Residents

    City Administrators already knows that most Hayden residents abhor the New 2040 Comprehensive Plan and Future Land Use Map.  They know that the new Comp Plan was designed to "urbanize" the area for the benefit large developers and that existing residents want Hayden to remain a suburban community of home owners. 

    Undeniable proof that Hayden citizens are strongly opposed to the Comp Plan was provided by the 2021 City Council Election.  The two new members of the City Council both ran on an anti-growth platform, and they swept the incumbents out of office by resounding margins.  In contrast, only two years previously, all three City Council incumbents were easily re-elected with little controversy.

    What changed between 2019-2021?   Was it “City Affinity”, “Benefits”, “Safety”, “Budget” or “Demographics”.  NOPE.   It was the abhorrent 2040 Comprehensive Plan, designed without any meaningful resident input and foisted on the city during Covid Lockdowns.  

    The problem is not that Hayden Administrators don’t know what resident’s think about the City’s plan for growth.  They know the 2040 Comp Plan has huge problems, but they have no plan to fix them.    And if they really wanted to come up with a plan for improving the Comp Plan, they could start tomorrow.  So why don't they?

    Once the "Citizen Engagement" survey is authorized by the City Council, it will take at least two months to get feedback.  And then, who knows how long to analyze the results.   So the end result of doing the survey first, before making addressing obvious problems that are already well known,  is to kick the can down the road.    It's almost as if the real purpose of the survey is not to inform, but to delay and to distract.  

    A better, less expensive, and more straight forward way to get citizen feedback would be to hold a town hall, where residents are actually allowed to speak up.    Another effective method would be mailing a customized survey to all 6000 households in Hayden.  And either an in person townhall, or a mail in survey would have more credibility than an electronic survey managed by an outside party, where the source data is completely inaccessible to FOIA requests or any type of credible verification.  

    Managing Resistance to "Smart Growth" 

    "Creating community engagement with residents starts with understanding their needs and their reactions to proposed city initiatives  . . . The right feedback can provide the insight you need to help you chart a path for the future." — Onpoint contract

    The PR firm that Hayden Administrators intend to hire specializes in surveys that give the appearance that they have listened to community opinion and incorporated it into their plan.  SMART GROWTH planners always take time to get  pretend to get "citizen input" no matter how flagrantly their plans contradict the wishes of residents. 

    The OnPoint survey will do this by asking general questions about city government services but it will not phrase questions in such a way that respondents can clearly vote down high density growth.   

    The survey will probably ask residents what "city services they most value",  and what their "greatest concerns are regarding growth" (traffic, schools, loss of small town feel, etc.).   But it will not ask residents if they support major revisions to the 2040 Comp Plan to city plans to increase densities.  Nor will it ask their opinon on limiting the rate of growth, limiting the size of developments, or in reducing the amount of area zoned for Mixed Use.   In other words, the main things that Hayden citizens would like to see happen, will not be mentioned.  

    Instead, the survey will almost certainly ask leading questions that can be used to justify densification.  For example:  Do residents want to see a "range of housing options?" (if yes, then high density)  Are they "concerned about affordability?"  (if yes, then high density)  Do they want to avoid “urban sprawl” and "preserve the prairie" (if yes, then high density). 

    These are misleading questions because residents really just  want their old Comp Plan back.  The previous zoning code provided for growth, and even provided for apartments with special use permits without  radically altering the suburban character of Hayden.   But they will not be given the opportunity to express this. 

    How do we know this?  Because many cities before Hayden have had horrible comp plans imposed on them, and there is a whole field of Public Relations dedicated to the art of "managing" resistance to "smart growth."   This specialty even has a name.   The process is called "The Delphi Technique"  and Rose Koire describes it in her book “Behind the Green Mask”. 

    “Developed by the RAND Corporation as a mind control technique, Delphi is used to channel a group of people to accept a point of view that is imposed on them while convincing them that it was their idea."— Rose Koire

    You can read more about this type of rigged "citizen engagment" intended to distract, not inform in this chapter from Koire’s book.

    There are other better options for listening to residents' real concerns than a rigged "citizen engagement" survey.   A Hayden Town Hall, where citizens can actually speak directly to city leaders and interact with them, is  long overdue.   

    "Onpoint"  City of Hayden Survey Proposal


  • (no comments)

Post Comments

Website Created & Hosted with Website.com Website Builder