As a follow up to your participation in the Master Planning process this past Summer, we wanted to let you know that a Public Opinion Report (http://www.lowellma.gov/depts/dpd/master_plan/complete_masterplan/master-plan-update/reports) had been completed and was now available online. For those who are interested, the report provides an overview and analysis of the data that was collected through the telephone survey, visioning sessions, and online participatory planning tool. From here, you can also access the 2011 Existing Conditions Report, which provides a snapshot of Lowell today and highlights data trends over time.There are about 300 pages here total - I haven't finished reading over all of it myself, yet. I have finished reading the Public Opinion Report, and generally speaking, I didn't find any huge surprises. Some highlights from the Highlights section:
For those who have not yet had a chance to view the award winning photographs from the Sustainability Snapshots Contest (http://www.lowellma.gov/depts/dpd/master_plan/complete_masterplan/master-plan-update/Sustainability_Snapshots), those are up on the website and will be showcased in the finalized Master Plan document.
Again, we truly appreciate your involvement throughout this planning process and we hope you will continue to work alongside us in shaping a vision for Lowell's future, as there will be opportunities to provide comment on a draft document in the coming months. We will continue to keep you apprised of our progress moving forward.
As always, feel free to be in touch with questions or concerns.
- Slightly more than half of the survey participants (55%) rated Lowell highly as a place to live (8, 9 or 10 on a 10 point scale), and 75% rated Lowell a 7 or higher. Survey results in 2002 were nearly identical. On average, as the age of participants increased, so did the participants’ rating of the city. Caucasian and Latino residents rated the city more favorably than Africans, African-Americans, and Asians. Those earning between $30,000 and $74,999 rated the city better than residents with either lower or higher incomes.
The last point worries me a bit. Following last week's announcement in The Sun that the council voted to shift as much of the tax burden from the Residential to Business sector as state law allows, and in a city with a comparatively low tax rate, I do wonder how we are supposed to maintain services, attract businesses, and keep taxes low. You can't have your cake and eat it, too. Do that many people really feel they're overtaxed and don't get what they pay for? This isn't simply about income, because households making over $100k a year were actually the most likely to complain property taxes were too high. These people would be paying considerably more in the suburbs...
- Understandably, given the recent reductions in State and Federal aid and consequent cuts to local government operations, there has been an increased importance placed on maintaining city services, as noted by survey participants. However, the simultaneously high prioritization of city services and property tax reduction poses a challenge for Lowell at a time when municipal resources are diminishing, as it is difficult to deliver public services of a high caliber without sufficient tax revenue, particularly as costs of service delivery continue to increase.