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Poll reveals what Pasco residents want on the budget

At least we like the air that we breathe.

A recently released county government survey found 1,073 people, or more than two-thirds of those responding, ranked the quality of Pasco's air as good or excellent.

You just inhaled deeply, didn't you?

Likewise, the quality of Pasco's natural environment, and opportunities to volunteer and to participate in religious or spiritual events earned equally high responses. The poll — conducted both online and during recent town hall meetings — is intended to help gauge public opinion about the delivery of county services and the expectation of how to pay for them.

This is the second consecutive year the county has polled its residents on services and quality of life issues And, like a year ago, there are contradictory results.

This is a great place to donate your time, pray, breathe and enjoy scenic beauty. The county, however, aims for more people believing Pasco is a great place to live, work and play. But, only half or fewer of the people responding indicated a strong sense of community, liked the way the county looked, or thought positively about the county's image or reputation.

Not surprisingly, employment opportunities ranked dead last — with just 13 percent of the respondents indicating jobs here are good or excellent. Ease of bus travel also scored poorly among the list of 31 county characteristics that people ranked.

The answers are understandable considering Pasco:

• Has an unemployment rate above the state and national average and an economy too reliant on the service and home-building industries;

• Has a nearly 90,000-person workforce — when it's working — that has to leave the county every day for employment;

• Reduced service and curtailed planned expansions in its mass transit system.

You see that and might believe the place is falling apart. Now, here's the funny part. Ranking the county's characteristics was the second question in the survey. The initial inquiry asked people to rate the quality of life here.

Despite those highlighted shortcomings, nearly three quarters of the 1,609 respondents ranked Pasco as good or excellent place to live and were even more enthusiastic about their own neighborhoods.

Still, Pasco is a county that is conflicted. Residents think code enforcement is problematic and job growth stinks. Of all the county services — libraries, recreation programs, parks — the activity most widely used is recycling. Imagine if the county had a better program.

Hardly any of the poll takers had ridden Pasco's bus system, which helps explain traffic congestion and the reason so few find it easy to use.

More than half had not attended a government meeting nor watched a broadcast of it over the past 12 months. More than a third hadn't volunteered time to a group or activity in Pasco and almost half weren't involved in a club or civic group. Those responses explain the puny sense of community.

It mirrors the findings of a year ago. Pasco's residents are sweating their own finances, commuting to and from work, and doing the parental duties of school activities, trips to the Little League field or collapsing in front of the television — just not turned to the government channel — to seek out additional interaction. People will help their neighbors, but a strong sense of community does not extend beyond the cul-de-sac. Civic engagement tends to follow not-in-my-backyard issues. See the proposed sportsplex for proof of that.

The survey is a precursor to guiding upcoming budget decisions. What do people want and what will they pay for? The proposed county budget is to be released Tuesday. More cuts and new or higher fees are coming. If nothing else, it should produce renewed civic engagement from those protecting their own favored programs/vested interests/sacred cows.

The high-quality air won't have a user fee. Unless you want to go to a park to breathe it.

Poll reveals what Pasco residents want on the budget 07/10/10 [Last modified: Saturday, July 10, 2010 1:48pm]
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