Brandon residents say Mayor Shari Decter Hirst and city council are doing a good job in moving the city in a positive direction, but could do better when it comes to managing tax dollars, according to a new survey.
The Probe Research poll conducted exclusively for the Sun asked citizens to rate the job performance of the current mayor and council using a five-point scale.
The city-wide survey was conducted via telephone between Jan. 16 and Jan. 23 among a random and representative sampling of 400 adults. The "mid-term report card" was released just past the midway point of council’s term.
Nearly half of those surveyed said that city council is doing a "very good" (20 per cent) or "good" (29 per cent) job in its efforts to move the city in a positive direction.
"It’s not surprising that people tend to think that is the case," said Curtis Brown, research associate with Probe Research Inc. "Because certainly there seems to be a lot of optimism in Brandon still these days, and people seem to generally have the view that things are going relatively well and that city council is really trying to move the city in a positive way."
Thirty-one per cent stated council was doing a "fair" job, 12 per cent said "poor" and seven per cent said council did a "very poor" job at moving the city in a positive direction.
When it comes to managing tax dollars, 35 per cent of respondents said the mayor and council are doing a "poor" (17 per cent) or "very poor" (18 per cent) job.
"Certainly the tax issue sort of stands out as being the area where there’s been some concern and I don’t think that’s surprising," Brown said. "People may have cooled down a little bit since the debate last year over the budget … This year’s budget seemed to be a little bit of a calmer process."
Homeowners were more likely to give city council poor ratings for its management of tax dollars (20 per cent "very poor"versus nine per cent of renters.)
When asked if the mayor and councillors are doing a good job of keeping their campaign promises, residents were more evenly split. Six per cent of respondents said they were doing a "very good" job, while 22 per cent said they did a "good" job. Twelve per cent said the mayor and councillors are doing a "poor" job at keeping their campaign promises, while 10 per cent said they are doing a "very poor" job.
"You still have a fairly significant proportion of the population that is saying council really hasn’t done a good job of keeping some of their campaign promises and that struck me as somewhat interesting," Brown said.
A lot of people weren’t in a position to judge one way or the other, as 38 per cent said they did a "fair" job, while 11 per cent were "unsure."
Nearly half of respondents praised city councillors and the mayor for their ability to effectively represent Brandon (17 per cent "very good," 31 per cent "good"). Eighteen per cent of residents polled indicated city councillors are doing an inadequate job.
"People seem to think that city council as a whole seems to be doing a good job in terms of representing the city," Brown said.
"That would have certainly had to do with representing the citizens of Brandon not only within the community but also to the rest of Manitoba, to the rest of the country and the world."
When it comes to listening to/ responding to citizens’ concerns, 46 per cent of respondents said the mayor and council are doing well (13 per cent "very good," 33 per cent "good"). Nearly one-quarter of those surveyed said that city council is not effectively listening to the concerns of citizens (nine per cent "very poor," 14 per cent "poor").
This is the first time Probe Research has done a survey with these specific questions, so it wasn’t able to provide a comparison to Brandon’s previous council or other cities.
However Brown did say the wide range of results from residents are typical.
"You have some people who are very happy with certain things, there’s some people who really think that they are doing a crummy job," he said.
"I think that’s typical of the situation anywhere, at any time. You’re in politics, you’re always going to have people who are upset with you, who think you’re doing a lousy job and you can’t do anything right … and then you’re also going to have people who are your raving fans, and then of course just a bunch of other people falling somewhere in the middle."
The "final exam" of mayor and council’s performance will be the 2014 election, Brown said.
"Generally when people tend to express more dissatisfaction on some of these things, that’s when perhaps it’s more likely that you’re going to get people running on a platform of change and you’re going to get incumbents being overturned," Brown said.
"Whereas if generally people think that they’re doing a pretty good job ... then it’s more likely they’re going to end up being re-elected."
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition January 30, 2013