On Tuesday, July 7, the City Council narrowly approved a $30,000 strategic plan that could guide future policy choices in Cannon Beach. According to City Manager Brant Kucera, the National Citizen Survey relies on citizen input to provide a detailed analysis and summary of community viewpoints, and is used by cities as large as two million and as small as a few hundred.
The survey is administered by the National Research Center and the International City/County Management Association, and serves as a tool for long and short-term planning. The survey will cost $15,000, with another $10,000-$15,000 for facilitation, Kucera said. For the price the city’s getting, Kucera said he is “not sure how it’s a bad deal.” He said he has administered in the survey in at least six other communities with successful results.
“For me, I think that the ability to cross-tabulate ourselves with other communities and from year to year are very important things to see as far as how we rank and then are we having a process of continuous improvement,” he said.
He noted that the survey results could be used to entice residents to Cannon Beach.
Councilor Mike Benefield agreed that attracting more full-time residents than second-home owners should be the goal for the future of the town.
Mayor Sam Steidel said he is more concerned about the people already living in Cannon Beach than attracting potential newcomers, and would rather see a service needs survey.
Steidel said he did not like the National Citizen Survey’s format, which uses the terms “poor, fair, good and excellent” which could be considered subjective. He noted that he believed the survey would be a “waste of time and money.”
Steidel added that he had no interest in comparing Cannon Beach to other communities, because of its uniqueness. “We are Cannon Beach, Cannon Beach is us,” he said.
Some in the audience agreed. In the crowd of about 15, a handful stood up to speak against the survey before the strategic plan discussion even began.
Jillayne Sorenson said a national survey may not be the best route for a community like Cannon Beach with its specific characteristics. “I think there are a number of ways of receiving feedback from the community,” she said, adding the survey shouldn’t be the only source of input.
The way questions are posed could have an impact on the results, Sorenson said, and the survey may not be worth the expense.
Kucera said the questions can be customized and suggested going with the national survey to avoid bias. An in-house survey may inadvertently offer leading questions, he added, noting the national survey is statistically defensible.
Benefield said he wants the city to be proactive, and a strategic plan would assist in that.
Councilwoman Wendy Higgins said the survey would provide an opportunity for staff and elected officials to utilize community input for future plans and budgets. “That’s what a strategic plan is: a road map in how to get from here to there,” she said.
Councilor George Vetter said he wasn’t sure the survey was the best way to spend money and discussed putting it off.
Benefield said he didn’t see what another month of rehashing would do.
Councilors Benefield, Higgins and Melissa Cadwallader voted in favor of the survey. Steidel and Vetter provided the nay votes in the 3-2 decision.
The survey administration period is estimated to take 17 weeks. Resulting data will be used to develop a strategic plan draft before the new year. The average return rate of the survey is 30-55 percent, which is administered every two years by councilors.
‘We are Cannon Beach, Cannon Beach is us’
Mayor Sam Steidel