WEMAC “Community Priorities” Survey: WEN comments to residents

[Update 10 June 2011] The West End Mayor’s Advisory Committee (WEMAC) has issued an online survey (http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/wemac) also available as a PDF file for hardcopy print out and is inviting residents to respond by June 10, 2011. WEN has received many questions from the neighbourhood about this survey and its intended outcomes.

WEN has written to Mayor Gregor Robertson expressing concerns about WEMAC and this survey (see our web post on June 2, 2011). We expect that within the next few weeks more will become clear about the survey and WEMAC’s conclusions and advice to the Mayor based on it, but we are unclear how it will be weighted versus previous input on community priorities surveyed a year ago with taxpayers’ money, which gave some pretty clear messages (i.e., no rezoning without a comprehensive plan, and more).

See the city’s webpage for details about WEMAC and our page  here for more on its history. (Note that WEMAC minutes indicate plans for a workshop on June 13 to work on its report (not sure if it’s closed or open to interested residents). A newspaper indicated that WEMAC plans to issue its report to Mayor by June 23, though WEMAC has made no such announcement publicly yet. It’s important for WEMAC to do things right, as this committee is the Mayor’s pilot project for many other neighbourhoods in Vancouver. For people completing the survey, here are some things to consider:

GENERAL COMMENTS

  • WEMAC has indicated that printed copies of the survey are available at the West End (Joe Fortes) Library and Gordon Neighbourhood House. You can also download a PDF file of the survey for hard copy print out at this link.  Completed paper surveys must be submitted to Joe Fortes Library by this Friday June 10.
  • Be conscious of the stated purpose and context of this survey and the potential intended and unintended ways its results might be interpreted or used as you answer the questions accordingly.
  • If the survey design makes you feel forced to rank the choices or answer a certain way, say so in the comments sections. If you don’t feel you can reflect all of your “neighbourhood priorities” in one survey response, consider submitting a second paper hardcopy. Unlike the online version which identifies your survey activity via a web cookie, there is no way of identifying you in the paper version. Be aware that the order of choices presented on each question may bias people’s ranking.
  • Don’t feel limited by questions that indicate “pick three” or “pick seven.” You may need to select more than this number (but can only do so on the paper version).
  • Make liberal use of the “free form comment boxes.” If necessary, use these boxes to repeat information that you feel you were not able to include in preset category responses to questions.
  • In the “comments” sections, ask for the City to ensure that the raw data and responses will be available for review by you, by independent third parties, and by elected officials on Council.
  • If you feel the question and choices are misleading or problematic, say so and explain why in the comment section.

SPECIFIC QUESTIONS

(Note: These are just some of the issues that have come to our attention. More may arise. Note also that the numbering of the questions are different in the online versus the paper version.)

  • Question Q6 (Transportation Mode Improvements) leaves out a number of important objectives for the West End, and no space is allowed for additions. For example, there is no space to indicate that service improvements are necessary to allow better disabled transportation access or emergency access. As well, note some problems with the question and choices. It asks for a ranking of “transportation modes” yet lists “parking” as an option. (Is parking a transportation mode?)
  • Question Q8 (Current Housing Situation) includes an incomplete and confusing range of choices. You may wish to simply indicate your actual housing situation in the comment box. For example, “owning with a partner” is not listed, but “renting with a partner/family” is assumed to be a joint category. Although unclear, it is assumed that “co-op housing” refers to rental housing co-op’s such as the Pacific Heights rental housing development (1035 Pacific Street), rather than “owned” co-ops that pre-dated condominium ownership in the West End. There is no place to indicate if these are adult family members or families with children. The needs are quite different if those living together are an adult sister (for example), versus an elderly parent, small children, or teenage kids.
  • Question 9 (Housing Issues improvement/resources) While the question asks you to rate 3 out of 6 housing issues important to you, of the options provided, 5 of the 6 choices are worded to assume that your particular housing issues would be improved by increasing one form of housing or another.
  • Question Q15 (Public Facilities) This question is an important one, and we imagine that developers may be invited to use the results to offer “trade-offs” to the community (in the form of “community amenity contributions”) in return for our community’s acceptance of major rezonings to allow bigger and taller buildings where currently not permitted. For example, after meeting privately with the architect of the 1401 Comox spot rezoning proposal, WEMAC has requested that city staff explore the implications of closing off the 1000 block of Broughton Street, right beside 1401 Comox, to extend the Broughton pocket park for creating more “green space”, despite that not having been identified as a “community priority”…. yet.  The results of this question might be presented to developers as a “shopping list.” When completing this question, we encourage you to think about the relative value for yourself and a healthy community of some of the issues being presented. For example, consider the relative importance of a hospital, library services, and a dog park? Do the additional facilities serve to resolve existing deficiencies? Or will they be needed to accommodate demand from the new development?
  • E-mail address for sending report: We have learned that if you don’t want your e-mail addressed to be used for other purposes, you need to state it explicitly. Otherwise, it seems you could end up in the Mayor’s personal database.  It might be best to just urge WEMAC to post the survey results on the web immediately when ready.

TECHNICAL NOTES

  • People with professional experience in designing surveys have told us that the design of the online survey  will create “tabulation” problems when someone tries to compile the numerical rankings and then tries to objectively interpret the meaning of the responses. The results might not be statistically significant or relevant.
  • For the questions that “force” you to rank something – “e.g., please list the three most important to you, in order of importance”, you can indicate them all as “most important” and the survey will accept the response (e.g., they are not “ranked” relative to each other). If you leave any of these questions blank, it will stall and indicate that you have selected “too many choices.” For these reasons, you are encouraged to make liberal use of the free-form comment boxes to ensure your true opinions are represented.
  • Respondents are not identified in the survey, so there appears to be no measure in place to prevent vested interests (on whatever side they may be) from skewing the results. It seems that one person could submit multiple surveys and there is no way for anyone analyzing the results to track this. This also highlights why the raw survey responses need to be available for public review.
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