Letter: West Kelowna Citizens’ Survey a useless effort

What we are not seeing from council is an attempt to refine the questions to provide the clarity they want …

To the editor:

Some members of West Kelowna council were defending its Citizens’ Survey (Citizens’ Survey Called ‘Waste Of Time’ March 13 Capital News) after Coun. Neis commented “the results of the survey have no bearing on council’s decisions.”

One of the problems appears to be that the survey is ‘owned’ by staff with council spending little time debating the contents of the survey. Coun. de Jong admits the survey has shortcomings because of “vaguely worded” questions. His comment is very telling; expressing concern but providing no further commitment. What we are not seeing from council is an attempt to refine the questions to provide the clarity they want in the survey responses.

If council is not making a concerted effort with their own survey to understand public input it is logical that the response to the the survey would decrease each year.

Of 1,000 surveys [distributed], 265 were completed in 2014 which staff states represents a 95 per cent confidence level when less than 27 per cent of respondents were 25 to 45 years old. No one under 25 years old responded to the survey.

Survey respondents recognize this lack of ownership by council and become unwilling to spend time completing poorly constructed surveys that bring little value. Perhaps council fails to admit that survey respondents have similar concerns answering “vaguely worded’’ questions.

Coun. Ophus comments that the survey results should not dictate how council sets strategic priorities. However, the problem is the number of priorities that differ from survey results are more than just one or two. Historically the survey’s discrepancy in priorities remains, so it becomes incumbent on Council to close this gap for respondents to feel their opinion is is valued.

If surveys were outsourced, council would want questions where there could be a full analysis completed by the contractor. We would not have survey questions where it’s not possible to analyze a result. No ‘vaguely worded’ questions. No leading questions to elicit a desired response. However, we continue to have these problems with the current staff-created surveys and not just the Citizens’ Survey.

In providing a few examples to council of where the 2014 survey could be improved (e.g. question 10 makes no mention of the very expensive Water Master Plan) I find there have been no changes in 2015. This appears to reflect the level of interest of council shows in the survey which reinforces Councilor Neis’s comment.

T. Kinsman, West Kelowna