Residential survey results are remarkably positiveSeptember 29, 2018
The 2018 City of Rochester Residential Survey found that 96 percent rate their quality of life as “excellent” or “good.”
The 2018 City of Rochester Residential Survey produced some very surprising data — and some highly predictable results that should help guide city leaders for years and decades to come.
This spring, a third-party telephone survey of 400 randomly selected Rochester residents — representing all parts of the city and all major ethic groups — found that 96 percent rate their quality of life as “excellent” or “good,” and 97 percent said they feel accepted, valued and welcomed here.
One might expect numbers like that in affluent, fairly homogeneous Twin Cities suburbs like Edina or Wayzata, but such data is not far from stunning in a community that grows more diverse every year and where income disparity is a significant and growing problem.
Put another way, the 2010 U.S. Census ranked Rochester’s per capita income as 97th-highest in the state — and we feel fairly confident that Nos. 1-96 would be hard-pressed to match Rochester residents’ apparent satisfaction with their quality of life.
In that light, we probably shouldn’t be surprised that, contrary to Rochester’s reputation as temporary stopping-off place for career-minded professionals, only eight percent of respondents expect to move out of the city within the next five years, while 87 percent said they expect to stay for at least 10 years, if not for the rest of their lives.
Life is good here, so why leave?
Of course, Rochester is far from immune to the problems faced by any small city that’s transitioning into something bigger. Among the concerns respondents cited were too much growth, rising crime rates and high taxes, but we’d also note that 13 percent of the respondents — that’s about 50 people — couldn’t come up with a single major point of concern.
And, when asked directly what aspects of the community need to be fixed or improved, 17 percent chose “nothing” as their answer. Such people are called “boosters,” and Rochester’s “booster rate” is nearly double the average for Minnesota cities of 80,000 or more.
Finally, we’d be remiss if we didn’t note the especially high rate of satisfaction with Rochester’s public schools system. Of late it seems as if complaining about schools has become a favorite hobby for a lot of people, but 97 percent of survey respondents gave the school district a rating of “excellent” or “good.”
That’s remarkable. Teachers, paraprofessionals and administrators should take that data as a tremendous compliment.
Among other groups that deserve kudos based on the survey are city staff, which received positive ratings from more than 90 percent of respondents for their courtesy and service, which is well above the norm for public sector workers. Not so long ago, Rochester city staff faced significant criticism in precisely these areas, so this level of satisfaction is a very welcome surprise.
We’ll also take this chance to pat ourselves on the back, as 31 percent of respondents listed the Post Bulletin as their preferred communication channel for information about city government. The second-ranked source of such information was the city’s own web site, at 26 percent.
But the survey also confirmed some hard truths that Rochester must confront as it continues to grow. Among the most predictable data points from the survey are these:
• Only 70 percent of respondents have a positive view of Rochester’s public transportation system
• 60 percent said Rochester has too few starter homes, affordable single-family homes and affordable rental units
While we agree that Rochester’s public transit system will need to evolve and grow as the city continues to expand, it’s worth noting that roughly half of the survey respondents had a household member who has used the city’s bus system in the past two years. Among that subset, the “positive” rating was 97 percent, while the “negative” ratings came almost exclusively from people who said they prefer to drive.
Clearly, the task ahead for Rochester Public Transit is to provide more flexibility and thus encourage more people to give the system a chance. If that doesn’t happen, downtown traffic and parking woes will only worsen.
The affordable housing problem is more complex. While a majority of residents say this is a pressing need, only 35 percent want the city to provide financial incentives to attract specific types of development, including affordable housing.
We don’t know how to resolve that apparent contradiction, but we do know Rochester faces no more important issue as the Destination Medical Center initiative moves toward the goal of creating tens of thousands of new service jobs in Rochester.