(Rare sighting of a city street sweeper truck in the wild | Image: City of Philadelphia)
The Kenney administration admirably restarted the Philadelphia Resident Survey during the Mayor's first term as a way of gauging public opinion on quality of life issues and the quality of different city services, and the second edition since 2017 was just released in a report this week.
It's admirable because there's always a risk that something unflattering could come back whenever they do this, which the City is then committed to publishing either way, but they've still done it anyway and to the Mayor's credit, the second-term priorities from his inauguration speech do sync up pretty well with what survey-taking residents said they wanted to see.
Kenney told the Inquirer's Laura McCrystal that he heard loud and clear that streets are the biggest problem area, a finding that likely contributed to the Mayor's decision to go big with a citywide street-sweeping pledge in his inaugural address last week:
The city launched the survey in August, asking almost 20,000 residents about city services, the work of various departments, and quality of life issues.
Top concerns expressed in the survey align with Kenney’s second-term priorities. The mayor pledged last week in his inaugural address to confront gun violence and reduce crime, and he cited the survey in promising to improve streets.
“Overwhelmingly, people were most concerned with the condition of our streets,” Kenney said. “So, let me say that we’ve heard you loud and clear, and making our streets safer and cleaner will be another major priority.” [...]
When asked for the top issue that the city should focus on improving, 15.6% of residents said streets, sanitation, and water, 9.1% said street repair and condition, and 8.6% said street cleaning. [...]
The survey also found that residents are not satisfied with street cleaning in the city, with 78% saying that it is poor or fair.
Survey takers identified street-related issues most frequently, and within that category, street cleaning was the lowest-rated city service, most likely because most people aren't experiencing it at all now. It was the only one in the category where a solid majority—56 percent!—rated the service Poor, and as the report authors note, we saw almost exactly the same survey response on street cleaning in the 2016-2017 survey.
"Only 21 percent, about one in five residents, rated street conditions as Excellent or Good with the majority (76 percent) rating street conditions as Fair (29 percent) or Poor (46 percent). These perceptions have stayed relatively unchanged since 2016-2017 when street conditions were rated: Excellent or Good by 17 percent, Fair by 32 percent, and Poor by 48 percent. Likewise, 15 percent of residents rated street cleaning as Excellent or Good with 78 percent rating street cleaning as Fair (21 percent) or Poor (57 percent). These findings were similar in the 2016-2017 Resident Survey when street cleaning was rated Excellent or Good by 16 percent of residents, Fair by 25 percent of residents, and Poor by 56 percent of residents."
One important thing to note is the survey results were weighted to reflect the city's demographics, so it's not the case that this is just a bunch of Center City people descending on the survey and skewing the results. The street paving and sanitation issues are a real concern for people all across the city, understandably since it's one of the basic municipal services most big cities have that we've been doing without for so many years.
The Mayor's pledge last week to get citywide sweeping into full swing by 2023 is a great first step, and we're looking forward to learning more details soon about how and when that's going to happen.
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