The most important undertaking at the City Council meeting of Lake Forest on Tuesday may not have been a report on a recent resident and business survey, but it would be hard to argue that it wasn’t the highlight of a nearly four-hour meeting.
With a new mayor and two new councilmembers looking on, as well as nine residents vying for two positions on the city's Planning Commission in the audience, Timothy McLarney delivered some good news to city leaders. He also had some advice.
"Stay the course," McLarney said, encouraging the council to simply do what it has been been doing. "As report cards go, this is about as good as you can get. ... These are the types of results every city wants but not every city earns."
McLarney, president of True North Research, said the resident survey has a plus/minus 4.9 percent margin of error among the 400 registered voters who participated in the poll from Sept. 27 to Nov. 29, 2012; the margin of error was 6.3 percent for the 200 businesses that participated.
He said the most notable areas that residents key on are traffic congestion, providing parks and recreation services, public safety, and supporting local business and economic development.
More than 96 percent of residents rated the quality of life in Lake Forest as "Excellent" or "Good." The other choices were Fair, Poor, Very Poor and Not Sure.
Another 3.3 percent of residents rated life in Lake Forest as fair.
Although the favorable result is similar to the survey in 2004—the city undertakes the survey every two years—when 95.6 percent said the quality of life was excellent or good, the number of residents who rated life excellent improved from 45.8 percent nearly a decade ago to 54.6 percent. That, McLarney said, is statistically significant and the kind of trending pattern you look for.
As for changes that residents would make—and given the opportunity to answer anything they wanted—36 percent answered "None" or "Not sure/can't think of anything."
Among the answers that were received were: Improve parks and recreation (13.0 percent); reduce traffic congestion (10.5); improve, repair infrastructure (6.0); improve public safety (5.4); limit growth and development (3.2). All other responses were less than that.
Overall satisfaction with city services was high, with 94.6 percent indicating they were "very" or "somewhat" satisfied. In 2000, 44.7 percent of residents considered themselves very satsified, but in 2012 that total grew to 63.2 percent.
Satisfaction with police services also got good marks, with six of eight categories scoring at least 92 percent: Providing crossing guards at schools, maintaining a low crime rate, providing child safety programs, investigating criminal activity, preparedness for emergencies and enforcing traffic laws.
Animal control services (88 percent) and providing Neighborhood Watch programs (85) were on the bottom end.
Similar numbers were achieved from businesses in the rating of satisfaction with development services: Inspect buildings (93 percent), enforce sign regulations (92), issue building permits (92) and enforce zoning regulations (91).
Satisfaction was also high with public works services, although not surprisingly "reduce traffic congestion" rated lowest, at 84 percent satisfied—six percentage points behind the next most dissatisifed areas, providing recycling services and maintaining trees.
In terms of satisfaction with community services, the only areas that didn't score 90 percent satisfaction were categories for providing adult sports programs (88 percent) and providing recreation programs for special needs children (86 percent).
Residents also indicated there was a "great" or "moderate" need for recycling in the following categories: All types of plastics (73.6 percent), household batteries (46.5 percent) and food waste (53.8).
In terms of Civic Center priorities, residents said a senior center was most important, with 86 percent saying it was a high or medium priority; on the low end were public art displays (61 percent) and banquet facilities for rent (60).
There was a slight dip in perceived communication from the city, but McLarney said it was not significant.
Residents said the business climate was good, with 88.7 percent citing satisfaction in 2012 vs. 78 percent in 2010 vs. 70.7 pecent in 2008.
The business community expressed 92 percent overall satisfaction with the City. When given an opportunity to choose a "top issue" of concern, 57.2 percent chose "no issue/everything is fine." The only area to break double figures was "Improving marketing, networking and ad opportunities" at 13.4 percent.
"Economic growth, development" was 8.1 percent.
Business also labeled "reduced business trash rates for recycling" as "very" or "somewhat" helpful at 86 percent, and "assisting to adapt trash enclosures to allow recycling" at 82 percent.