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Our View: State of the city is strong, survey shows

July 15, 2018

Rochester received its “State of the City” report this week.

The report didn’t come from elected officials; it came from a polling company that talked with 400 residents and produced results that, according to methodology, are valid and reliable to within 5 points, plus or minus.

According to the report, and maybe contrary to what you read on Facebook and hear from friends and neighbors, Rochester is on track, and the state of the city is strong, as presidents always say about the State of the Union.

Minneapolis-based Morris Leatherman Co. did the interviews in late May, and the results were reported at the City Council’s Committee of the Whole meeting Monday. Maybe it was the approach of the Memorial Day weekend and summer vacations, but the 400 people who responded were pleased about a lot of things.

Key findings

Eighty-five percent of respondents believe the city’s headed in the right direction, which compares with “right direction” results of about 72 percent in other Minnesota cities where the company has polled.

Ninety-four percent would recommend living in Rochester.

Fifty-eight percent rate the quality of life good, 38 percent excellent, and 5 percent fair. None responded “poor.”

Schools were identified as a “very important” aspect of quality of life by the largest percentage of respondents, 90 percent, and Rochester schools were called excellent by the largest percentage, 57 percent.

About half of respondents thought the city’s property taxes are about average compared with other cities, and 69 percent believe they get good value for the money. Seventy-eight percent approve of the job the mayor and council members are doing.

And here’s a fact of life in Rochester that should never be taken for granted: 92 percent of residents feel safe in their neighborhoods and 97 percent in their homes.

There are other important messages in the report. Among the 5 percent who said they wouldn’t recommend living here, 24 percent said it was because of the high cost of living, 19 percent said rising crime, and 14 percent said the city is too reliant on Mayo Clinic.

Room to improve

Aspects of the community that should be improved? The most mentioned were more recreation facilities (6 percent), affordable housing (4 percent), public transit and homelessness services (3 percent each).

And 50 percent of respondents oppose or strongly oppose the city providing financial incentives to developers. After the council’s recent vote to lay the groundwork for a gigantic TIF incentive for the Bloom riverfront redevelopment, that’s interesting.

Last but not least, there was good news for the Post Bulletin and the value of local newspapers. When people were asked where they get information about city government, 40 percent said the city website and 38 percent said the newspaper.

After that, it was word of mouth (7 percent), social media (7 percent), “mailings” (4 percent) and cable television (2 percent).

When asked how they’d prefer to receive information about city government, 31 percent said the paper and 26 percent the city website. After that it was email (14 percent), social media (10 percent), text messages (3 percent), cable TV (2 percent) and local TV news (2 percent).

That’s a powerful endorsement of the value and credibility of our reporting and more generally, the importance of local newspapers.

All in all, for us and for you, there’s reason to believe we’re on the right track. We can always do better, and the city has a long to-do list, but we can take a moment now and then to appreciate what we have and the work we’re doing.

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