Residents of the greater Washington D.C. area have a lot of complain about when they look at their local governments: corruption in the District, budget cuts in Fairfax County, anger over redevelopment in Alexandria... we could go on.
But not in Arlington County, where a whopping 89 percent of residents surveyed said they were satisfied with local government services and 92 percent said they were happy with the quality of life in the close-in suburb that acts like a city.
This was a real survey, not one of those “click here if you like this” Internet knockoffs. The ETC Institute of Olathe, Kansas does this kind of community research in 48 states and the results are statistically valid, with a 2.7 percent margin of error. Some 3,600 random households were contacted and 1,306 responses were received, which ETC VP Chris Tatham called an astounding level of response.
The results are also pretty amazing, even when you drill down into the details, where consultants tend to hide the exceptions. The happiness (er... “satisfaction” in professional pollster lingo) exceeds the national averages by double digits.
The quality of fire and emergency response, police, parks and recreation offerings, library services overall, arts and culture programming, wastewater and storm runoff services all were rated highly by residents. They also gave a thumbs up to the quality of the public schools and how well the county is managing growth.
Sixty-three percent were even happy with the value they received for their county taxes.
There was some dissatisfaction (the word Tatham used was “challenges”): Maintenance of county streets and traffic flows got a lot of negative reaction — and by a lot, we mean about 25 percent.
Needless to say, County Board chair Mary Hynes, county manager Barbara Donnellan, and all the county employees and officials who heard the presentation Tuesday were delighted.
“I feel like we ought to send a big Valentine to our staff. It really validates all their hard work,” said County Board member Libby Garvey.
Tatham, whose company was paid $46,920 by Arlington County for the study, put the level of residents’ satisfaction in the top 5 percent in the nation. This is the third time ETC has researched Arlington, and its most important scores have improved over the 2008 and 2004 surveys.
He said he couldn’t remember the names of the most-satisfied comunities for sure, but they probably included Coral Springs, Fla. But they don’t have to worry about snow, or terrorist attacks on local institutions like the Pentagon.