How Lorain, OH, used a community survey to help Council approve a tax measure for the November ballot
The Challenge: Raising City Funds to Support Local Parks
In Lorain, Ohio, a lack of resources has meant that parks have taken a back seat for the City. Discussions by City Council to raise the money needed to maintain and improve park facilities—by ordinance or otherwise—have been on the table since 2019. But Council has repeatedly been reluctant to move forward due to comments from a small group of residents who regularly attend council meetings, although they may not necessarily be representative.
This year, with many more community members enjoying public spaces due to COVID-19, and on the heels of the renovation of a baseball sports facility, in partnership with the local School District, the Mayor decided he was ready to tackle the issue of park funding and get Council on board.
The Zencity Solution: A "Temperature Check" Community Survey
Turning to Zencity, the Mayor had two goals: first, he wanted to genuinely understand if park funding should be a City priority, and second, if it were, he needed the data to convince Council. With that in mind, Zencity’s team of experts curated a “Temperature Check” survey for Lorain residents. The survey questions were aimed at gauging park usage, satisfaction with current services, and ultimately, resident willingness to pay a new, monthly tax to fund park maintenance and improvements. The community survey data showed that most residents used Lorain parks at least once a month, with more than ⅓ of residents visiting them weekly or daily. However, there was a resident-recognized need for improvement, with many residents unsatisfied with the current state of parks.
At the same time, the City used its Zencity dashboard and organic discourse analysis capabilities to understand resident satisfaction around the City’s recent park-upgrade efforts. Organic discourse collected on social media over a 4 month period showed that residents were positive about the City’s efforts to improve park services, and that investing in parks was a source of positivity in the community. Some of the leading drivers of positive sentiment included Easter festivities at local parks, new trees planted, a new dock, and more.
From the survey, Zencity’s analysts were also able to measure not only what percentage of residents were willing to support some kind of levy, they were able to understand how much residents were willing to pay. The results showed that over 60% of survey respondents would be willing to pay a $5 monthly tax to support park beautification and improvements.
Finally, through the community survey, the City learned that residents were more supportive of equal allocation of park resources across parks, and were therefore more likely to support a levy on local parks generally than on selective improvement projects.
Impact: City Council Approved Putting A Monthly Levy up to Vote on the November Ballot
Armed with this data, the Mayor and his team were able to show Council there was a need for better park services, and moreover, the data helped predict that residents would respond to a levy positively.
Because the survey reflected responses from all 8 wards in the City, the Mayor and Council also felt confident that the survey results were representative.
Zencity’s organic discourse and survey data together proved powerful drivers in data-backed decision making by Council. After seeing this data, the Council unanimously voted to include a $5 monthly levy for park improvements on the November ballot. If the ballot measure passes, as expected, this will generate over $1 million for the City to dedicate to its much-loved parks.
Zencity has helped our leadership truly embody data-driven decision-making and great community engagement. With Zencity surveys and data, we were able to give Council the confidence needed to put a levy that they had previously steered away from on the November ballot. The levy will raise over $1 million for our park services and has the potential for so much impact on our community.