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ABQ residents concerned about city’s direction

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

More than half of Albuquerque residents are concerned about the direction in which the city is heading, a new survey shows, though they are giving the municipal government high marks for its performance during COVID-19.

The annual city-funded “citizen satisfaction survey” shows that residents’ hopefulness about the city’s direction has continued its decline, with 46% characterizing their feelings as “very” or “somewhat hopeful.” That’s down from 49% last year and 68% in 2018.

A slight majority of those surveyed – 51% – now describe themselves as “somewhat” or “very” concerned about the city’s direction, up from 47% last year and only 29% in 2018.

But the survey, conducted by Albuquerque’s Research & Polling Inc. in August, showed that 61% score the city government well for how it has dealt with the coronavirus, compared with just 16% who gave poor marks. Another 22% offered a neutral score.

Though the city closed most of its facilities early in the pandemic, it did not completely shut down, continuing bus service, senior meals, Planning Department functions and other services. It has also since reopened many other facilities, such as pools and libraries.

The city has also avoided employee furloughs and layoffs, thanks in part to receiving $150 million in federal coronavirus relief. The city will likely use most of it for COVID-19-related payroll costs, but the funds have also gone to programs like mobile WiFi hot spots and grants to nonprofit organizations and artists.

Nearly two-thirds (65%) of the recent survey respondents agreed that the city has specifically done a good job communicating with the public during the outbreak and 60% said the city has done well keeping residents safe.

However, far fewer (36%) agreed that the city has done well helping business owners during the pandemic or providing assistance to those who have lost their jobs or been furloughed (37%).

The survey also asked about Albuquerque residents’ comfort with various activities during the pandemic, with 57% saying they were comfortable dining outside at restaurants but only 34% said the same for dining inside at restaurants and 24% felt the same about sending K-12 students back to school this month.

“Generally, residents who are ‘very concerned’ about the direction Albuquerque is heading are more likely to say they are ‘very comfortable’ participating in the (various) activities,” Research & Polling said in its report.

City ordinance requires an annual survey. The city elected this year to break it into two pieces, according to Mayor Tim Keller’s office. These results reflect the first part, which featured 303 adult respondents surveyed by cell phone and land lines from Aug. 12-18.

The recent survey delved heavily into COVID-19 response but also touched on policing in light of national protests against racism keyed by George Floyd’s May death in Minneapolis police custody. Though many protests have occurred locally without incident, one segued into a spate of Downtown vandalism and another led to a shooting. Steven Ray Baca is charged with shooting protester Scott Williams during a June protest of the city’s Juan de Oñate sculpture outside the Albuquerque Museum.

Survey respondents mostly agreed (59%) that the Albuquerque Police Department has done a good job of handling recent protests; meanwhile, 49% agreed that APD “reflects the values of the city’s residents,” while only 23% disagreed and 24% were neutral.

“Social justice issues have been at the forefront of national conversations this year, and Albuquerque is reflective of that. There has been a magnifying glass on how protests are handled, and how local governments respond. Many residents who took part in this survey were generally pleased with the city’s response to the protests,” Research & Polling President Brian Sanderoff said in a statement.

Survey respondents were split on how well city government is keeping residents safe; 37% gave a favorable review, while 32% gave a negative review and 30% were neutral.

Asked about the city’s performance “reforming public safety and public service programs to better serve the community,” the results were similar: 34% scored the city as good or excellent, while 30% said it was doing a poor job, and 33% were neutral.

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