Thursday, January 05, 2006

State of PWC?

Interesting article in yesterday's Potomac News. Chairman Connaughton gave his annual State- of-the-County address at Tuesday's BOCS meeting. While I won't go into the specific achievements mentioned, the last two paragraphs are worth mentioning:

Ninety-two percent of citizens who took the county’s annual citizen survey said they were satisfied with the performance of their county government, Connaughton said.

Eighty-five percent said the county was “efficient and effective” and 79 percent were satisfied with the value they received in exchange for their taxes, Connaughton said.

92% satisfaction is nothing to sneeze at. But what I find most interesting is the fact that the vast majority of respondants seem to have no problem with the tax situation in Prince William County. This is, of course, a very common theme in our blog world. I don't think a week goes by without some vocal PWC resident complaining about Sean's "tax-and-spend" ways. It would appear, however, that those of us who disagree with that sentiment are not alone. Far from it. Eight residents in ten seem to agree the BOCS is handingly the situation just fine.

31 Comments:

At 1/05/2006 09:52:00 AM, Blogger nova_middle_man said...

I wonder what the results would be in Fairfax County or Loudon County. PW has done an excellent job with keeping real estate taxes in check while Loudon and Fairfax are increasing at much higher rates.

 
At 1/05/2006 10:21:00 AM, Anonymous MOM said...

Marvelous how you lap dogs leap to his defense, funny in that he couldn't even provide an accurate picture of the survey results.

The 92% satisfaction rate was not with the county government but with the services provided and that is the cumulative total of those somewhat as well as very satisfied with the services. Overall, I may satisfied with the level of most services but that has little to do with my level of satisfaction with the BOCS or the County Executive.

Similarly, if anyone bothers to read the results those very satisfied with value of their tax dollars was 22.2% and those somewhat satisfied was 57% or the preponderance of the "satisfied" total of 79.2%. I don't see being "somewhat satisfied" as some sort of ringing endorsement but as a less negative way of saying "somewhat dissatisfied".

It's also interesting that there was no mention of the survey results as regards transportation, development, fire services, etc.

Telling only half the story leads me to believe TC is rubbing off on you.

 
At 1/05/2006 10:30:00 AM, Blogger MR JMS said...

MOM-

So you're satisfied with services, but not with the people who manage those services?

On the transportation issue-- It would be honest of you to point out that Prince William is the only county in the state that builds their own roads out of county dollars. It would be nice to see those numbers if they exist I agree, but you need to mention that PWC is taking on a responsibility in this area designated for the state to manage-- which they don't.

Fire services aren't the best. Would ne interesting to see those numbers as well.

 
At 1/05/2006 11:05:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The survey, which is done independently by UVA, gave the County high-marks on pretty much everything except transportation. TRANSPORTATION, as we all know, IS A STATE RESPONSIBILITY.

An interesting note about the survey: it asked people about taxes. 62 percent of respondents chose the middle path of maintaining services and taxes at roughly current levels; 12.6 percent said that they would cut services and taxes, whereas 11.2 percent opted for increased services and taxes, and 14.2 percent suggested some other change.

Interesting, huh?

 
At 1/05/2006 11:14:00 AM, Blogger Mitch Cumstein said...

MOM:

A few points here. First of all, while I have not seen the complete survey results, the idea that " "somewhat satisfied" as some sort of ringing endorsement but as a less negative way of saying "somewhat dissatisfied"." makes absolutely no sense. In my experience, surveys that include a "somewhat satisfied" response also include a "somewhat dissatisfied" answer. Maybe this one didn't, you tell me.

As far as my coming to anyone's defense, not hardly. If anyone needs serious defending, it's the VCAP-sponsored anti-tax crowd. It appears once again that the majority ain't buyin' what you're sellin'. In this case, as opposed to the November elections, it's local.

Mitch

 
At 1/05/2006 12:01:00 PM, Anonymous NoVA Scout said...

Interesting numbers, particularly if the poll is well-run and has a large sample base.

My impression from one county over is that PW is run very well indeed. My further impression is that there are about a half-dozen chronic malcontents (who make a lot of noise, but don't have much to offer by way of substance), who work very, very hard to find something to gripe about. (Messrs. Young and Moeller leap immediately to mind, although there may be a few more). Speaking of whom, MOM's comment shows how personal, as opposed to substantive, their animus is.

Their attitude kind of reminds me of what I used to encounter when I worked on the floor of a union-controlled factory. The Shop Steward took me aside three times over the course of a few weeks to tell me to slow down and not work so hard. I wasn't really aware of working all that hard, I just tried to earn my wage and to keep moving to make the drudgery of the day pass more quickly. I knew that the owner was paying my wage out of his pocket, not the steward. The last confrontation was down-right threatening. The steward told me that all the workers might come under pressure to work at my pace. He wasn't about to accept that without a big fuss, a physical one if it came to that.

The shop steward mentality of this handful of people in PW is that they would rather bay at the moon over what they consider to be conservative principles and not accept that the secret of political success for conservatives is hard work in the governance arena by elected conservatives doing the people's business. You've got to deliver a product. The product is police and fire protection, fiscal stewardship, transportation and education. Connaughton goes to work every day, does some deals, makes some improvements, shakes some hands, touts the County to businesses and investors, makes some compromises, makes some friends, makes some enemies, probably makes some mistakes, and gets things done. What he really ought to be doing is sitting in a small room with a small number of generally cranky people howling about this or that issue, some of which are completely beyond the power of any state or local government official to affect. If he keeps this up, local and statewide conservatives will be expected to produce good government, a complicated and time-consuming activity. So the Shop Stewards keep trying to have a talk with him and the boy just keeps on working. He knows who pays his wages.

 
At 1/05/2006 12:03:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

MOM - This is for you"

Marvelous how MOM leaps to attack him, funny in that MOM couldn't even provide an accurate picture of the survey results.

The 92% satisfaction rate was with the county government services not the county government that provides them. People love the services but hate everyone and everything associated with providing those services, especially the elected leadership. Overall, I may be satisfied with the level of most services but that has little to do with how much I hate the Chairman of the BOCS, the BOCS or the County Executive.

Similarly, if anyone bothers to read the results, those unsatisfied with value of their tax dollars was very small. Since the "satisfied" total is only 79.2%, that means that most people must be idiots since I'm not "somewhat dissatisfied" but "very dissatisfied".

It's also interesting that the article didn't mention the survey results in regards to transportation, development, fire services, etc.; even though the actual speech did cover these issues and provide some of the data. So I am "very dissatisfied" with the reporter as well.

Telling only half the story leads me to believe MOM is rubbing off on you.

 
At 1/05/2006 12:08:00 PM, Blogger Involved said...

The big question that wasn't asked is: Do you vote in county elections?

Taking a survey and taking the time to vote are completely different things. In addition, county elections typically won't get the same voter turn-out as a statewide race, and certainly not as much as a Presidential race. If the majority of the respondents don't vote in county elections then the political value of this is not too high.

On the other hand, people tend to vote if they feel very passionate about an issue. Connaughton stated that 79% said that they were satisfied with the value the receive in exchange for their taxes. We can then assume that about 21% are NOT satisfied.

I'd be worried about the 21% who are vocal about their disapproval of their taxes, because I'd assert that you are far more likely to vote when you're worried about an issue, than when you're simply satisfied with how things are.

This all goes back to the original problem with this survey, in that we don't have any idea who votes in PW. If 20% of the satisfied people vote and 90% of the anti-tax people vote, Sean's in trouble. Since you can't assume that both groups will have the same voting habits, and any speculation on this fact would be nothing more than an uneducated guess, we can't pull very much election data out of this poll for political purposes.

 
At 1/05/2006 12:24:00 PM, Blogger Mitch Cumstein said...

Involved:

I'd be interested to see what percentage of residents actually completed the survey. My experience with surveys is that you rarely get much of a response from those who don't really care one way or another. Granted, the 21% may feel strongly about their position and thus will be more likely to vote. But I would counter that the other 79%, simply be virtue of the fact that they were willing to take the time to complete and return the survey, also feel reasonably stong in their opinions. In any case, I don't think one group is any more likely to vote than the other.

 
At 1/05/2006 12:55:00 PM, Blogger Involved said...

Again, that is all speculation.

We don't know who is able to legally vote, who is registered to vote, who feels that taxes are an important issue when voting, and who has a higher proclivity to vote in general. None of this information was captured in the survey.

You can say "I think everyone surveyed will vote" and someone else can say "No they won't", but the bottom line is that we have no idea.

It would be foolish to try and assert that this means anything when it comes to voting trends, since voting trends were not recorded in the survey to begin with.

 
At 1/05/2006 01:02:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

MOM said, "It's also interesting that there was no mention of the survey results as regards transportation, development, fire services, etc."

So I did some checking...

As others have noted, citizen satisfaction with transportation is low: no surprise really. Perhaps if Jerry Kilgore had realized this and actually proposed to do something about it we wouldn't have Mao Tse Kaine as our next Governor. But as others have noted, this is a state responsibility. Citizen dissatisfaction with transportation is not necessarily a sign of dissatisfaction with the county.

Citizen satisfaction with growth and development is low: no surprise really. Growth, more than any other issue, played a key role in the 2003 supervisors' races. And, lo and behold, the current board has cut the number of new residential units approved per year by 60% relative to the previous board; and new building permits were down in 2005 relative to 2004, so it looks like the board is doing something about that dissatisfaction. Also, the survey notes that a frequest comment from respondants was, "If we had the roads to support the growth it would be fine. But we don't." Once again... state responsibility.

But this is where our buddy Burt gets it ALL wrong. CITIZEN SATISFACTION WITH WITH FIRE SERVICE AND RESCUE SERVICE... wait for it... 98.1% and 98.4% respectively!!!

Wow Burt, you're right. People are angry about fire and rescue.

 
At 1/05/2006 01:07:00 PM, Blogger Too Moderate said...

I heard that the only people taking the survey were illegal immigrants, which means Sean is approved by 71% of illegals. The question is this: Will this hurt him politically when this gets out?

 
At 1/05/2006 01:40:00 PM, Blogger Mitch Cumstein said...

Good one, Too Moderate! But how did the illegals get the survey in the first place? Did the County just send thousands of copies to the seven or eight single-family homes that all of the illegals are living in?

 
At 1/05/2006 01:40:00 PM, Anonymous MOM said...

Ignoring the personal attacks, Involved and Mitch both ask valid questions. I suggest that Involved's assertion with regard to voting is spot on. I would add that those who took the time to respond fully to the survey, particularly in the negative, are among those most likely to vote either in support of or opposition to the next slate of candidates. This dovetails with Mitch's question regarding the percentage of voters sampled and the unasked question, what percentage of the sampling actually responded to the questions.

The sample size was 1432. What's interesting is that the transportation and tax issues drew the largest percentage of responses, somewhere on the order of 90-95% while others, ie: drug progams, emergency response time, social services, etc. drew responses from less than 50% and sometimes less than 20% of the respondents. Of more interest were the questions regarding planning and development. Although only about half of the respondents answered the questions regarding those issues, the dissatisfaction percentage was in excess of 50% and outside of transportation issues, carried the highest percentages of people very dissatisfied.

The low number of responses to many of the questions in combination with the high disatisfaction with planning and development seem to indicate a disconnect between the quality of specific services provided and the general satisfaction percentages. This could be in part because the survey did not offer the number of options typically offered in a survey. The choices were limited to five, very dissatisfied, somewhat dissatisfied, somehat satisfied, very satisfied, or don't know, forcing the respondent to take a position on one side of the fence or the other and leaving no middle ground apart from "don't know".

Lastly, to get back to the earlier arguement, the question seems to have been overlooked in the trust the respondent had in the government, let me emphasize government as opposed to county service providers, "to do What is Right". The percentages are as follows:

Never/Almost Never 1.8%
Only Some of the time 34.1
Most of the Time 52.7
Just About Always 11.4

These figures are markedly different from the 92% satisfaction rate that I would suggest applies to the county services not county leadership.

 
At 1/05/2006 01:51:00 PM, Blogger too conservative said...

These numbers are great...the entire County Government should feel satisfied.

Did any readers attend the State of the County address?
Connaughton recieve a well deserved standing ovation!?

 
At 1/05/2006 01:57:00 PM, Blogger Too Moderate said...

Mitch, the illegals got the surveys the same way they got FFX to spend millions of dollars on day labor sites. For a politcal pundit I need to explain way to much to you!

 
At 1/05/2006 02:23:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Unfortunately TC, not a lot of people were there... About a dozen members of county staff, the usual press, maybe only two or three citizens... but the citizens that were there were all BIG Sean fans, so there was some applause.

 
At 1/05/2006 03:23:00 PM, Blogger Mitch Cumstein said...

MOM:

You seem to have access to the full results. I'd be very interested in seeing them, if possible.

Your statement about the number of responses to specific questions is very telling, almost as relevent as the responses themselves. It certainly is an indicator of which questions/issues are most important.

I posted the article for two reasons. The first, of course, was to support the fact that I believe that the current Board Members (at least the majority of them) are doing a pretty good job. The other was to illustrate what a former boss once told me: "There are lies, damn lies and statistics." Like statistics, survey numbers can be spun in any number of ways and used to tell many, often dramatically different stories. We've seen some of that here, and I hope others will jump in to offer their take on the results.

I'd be very interested in seeing how these numbers compare to previous years to determine if there are any noticable trends.

 
At 1/05/2006 03:24:00 PM, Anonymous MOM said...

Survey results are at:
http://www.pwcgov.org/docLibrary/PDF/003772.pdf

May want to look at the rest of the report, methodology, particularly regarding geographic representation seems a little suspect given the demographics of PWC.

 
At 1/05/2006 03:32:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

mom- when you said, "Ignoring the personal attacks, Involved and Mitch both ask valid questions" I wonder which personal attacks you were talking about? YOU are the one who called others "lap dogs". Other than you, who made a personal attack?

mitch- I also have a printed copy of the survey results that you can have if you want it. Just give me a call. We haven't gotten together just to hang out in while anyway so maybe we should.

 
At 1/05/2006 03:38:00 PM, Blogger Mitch Cumstein said...

Thanks, Anon. Whoever you are!

 
At 1/05/2006 03:53:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm sorry, I should have given a hint as to who I am.

Your kids sometimes babysit my kids. Does that help?

 
At 1/05/2006 06:26:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

They did a poll with a sampling of over 1400 for a population of 350,000? That is an ENORMOUS sampling for a poll which affirms its results!

Regarding MOM's 1:40 post, how can he or anyone else believe that a 64% "trust" figure is bad!!!! The Federal or State Governments would never get that high, nor the President, Congress, the General Assembly, laywers, priests, etc. I think it is incredible that the PWC Government has that level of trust.

 
At 1/06/2006 03:53:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is this a poll or a survey? If a survey, it means anybody could respond, and a 1432 response is horrible. Someone suggested this was the case when they said the people responding would be those most likely to vote.

But others suggest this was a poll, meaning a well-selected cross-sample of the county.

In either case, the answer to the question about taxes was that people would like their taxes not to go up.

Anybody think their taxes will not go up this year? Anybody think they didn't go up last year?

That would have been an interesting question -- "Did your taxes go down, up, or stay the same last year". I bet half the people would actually get the answer WRONG.

"somewhat satisfied" is not a good wording for a survey, because it provides a negative connotation, which allows some people who are not happy to chose it, inflating the numbers. This is typical though for surveys done by organizations trying to make themselves look good. Also the leaving off the neutral answer.

A good survey would ask more specific questions about specific services, and ask the questions in both the affirmative and negative forms to eliminate bias.

For example, some "do you agree" questions should have been asked, like "how much do you agree with the following statements (completely agree, mostly agree, somewhat agree, somewhat disagree, mostly disagree, completely disagree, don't care/don't know):

"My real estate taxes are too high for the services I receive"

"I am happy with the services I receive for my tax dollars"

You take the answers to those to, and see if they agree.

 
At 1/06/2006 08:38:00 AM, Blogger Mitch Cumstein said...

Anon 3:53

Your points on methodology are well taken. But you have to be very careful about making changes in methodology from previous polls/surveys. Perhaps the greatest value of these endeavors is the ability to compare responses to those in previous surveys to spot trends. When you change methodology, you lose the ability to do that.

 
At 1/06/2006 09:39:00 AM, Blogger James Young said...

Gee, a survey commissioned by the BOCS, and conducted by a State-funded university, comes up with results that completely vindicate the BOCS and government. Moreover, there is a well-documented tendency of poll respondents to hold institutional contempt, while supporting their local official (i.e., "Congress stinks, but my Congressman is great").

Color me skeptical.

However, in fairness, I would say the one area in which I disagree with the polis represented in the survey is with regard to the County. County spending and action on this issue --- in which there is substantial Federal and State interplay --- is one of the few bright spots in the County budget, as opposed to the Federal and State (particularly) portion.

And nova scout, just as there are a few "chronic malcontents," there are also quite a few chronic pissboys. You reject the criticism of the former as "personal, as opposed to substantive." I'm always impressed when a self-styled "conservative" member of the latter contingent adopts the far-Left tactic of ignoring substance to which he is unable to respond.

 
At 1/06/2006 11:02:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jim Young, there he goes again ...

 
At 1/06/2006 11:44:00 AM, Anonymous NoVA Scout said...

"Pissboys" ??? Very classy, James. Very classy, indeed.

Be patient with me, here. Obviously, I missed something. What was the substantive point for which you wanted a response from me?

 
At 1/06/2006 01:31:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here is a link to the Address, in case anyone wanted to read it. You know, the Haters and the Kool-Aid drinkers might be interested.

http://www.pwcgov.org/default.aspx?topic=040010000800003438

If I missed it being posted somewhere else, please don't jump all over me.

 
At 1/09/2006 12:58:00 PM, Blogger James Young said...

nova scout, according to your pretentious yet maddeningly anonymous rantings, you are old enough and presumably culturally literate enough to recognize this a a movie reference, to-wit: Mel Brooks' "History of the World, Part 1." I suppose "water carrier" is less earthy, but then again, I've witnessed the lengths to which Chairman Sean's pissboys will go to slander those who dare point out the our Emperor has no clothes, and find my term to achieve the Aristotelian mean.

As to your question, nova scout, you offered a global slander ["there are about a half-dozen chronic malcontents (who make a lot of noise, but don't have much to offer by way of substance), who work very, very hard to find something to gripe about. (Messrs. Young and Moeller leap immediately to mind, although there may be a few more)"] in a forum to which I am not a contributor, and in a conversation in which I had not heretofore participated. That is, you simply disparage, but offer no specifics.

You know, I don't go around spouting that "Nova Scout is living proof that horses' a**es outnumber horses" in fora and conversations in which you are not participating, nor do I associate you with individuals, with whom you've never associated (i.e., the aforementioned Mr. Moelleur). I'd appreciate the same consideration.

Apparently --- though to the best of my knowledge, we've never met --- you feel the overwhelming need to engage in a Two-Minute Hate of me on a fairly regularly basis. I'd submit that your rantings say more about you than they do about me.

 
At 1/11/2006 10:39:00 PM, Anonymous NoVA Scout said...

James: What was the substantive point for which you wanted a response from me? Again, I apologize for failing to pick up on this, but I still can't find it. I'll give you my best answer when I understand the question.

 

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