The National Citizen Survey

Dear Ashland Residents:

I am pleased to announce that we have received our results from the 2019 National Citizens Survey that was administered over the late summer and fall.

The multi-faceted survey looks at eight aspects of community across three different categories: Community Characteristics, Government, and Participation. The survey allows town officials and residents alike the ability to see what we do well, what we need to improve on, the direction we should be going in, and finally how community participation and community leadership leads to results in the characteristics of a city or town.

Since it is important to maintain the integrity of the data, the survey is conducted independently by the National Research Center through a randomly selected process. Town officials have no knowledge or influence as to who was sent the survey or who completed the survey. With over 840 respondents, the NRC were able to establish a 95% confidence interval for the survey, meaning all responses could be generalized across the town within 3 percentage points.

Out of the 132 survey items for which comparisons were able to be made with 2016’s data, the large majority of items increased for 2019. Of those, 46 items showed a “statistically significant” increase. 13 items showed a statistically significant increase.

By far the largest increases were reflected in questions that speak to residents’ confidence in their government leadership, with the highest increases being “Overall Direction” with an increase of 21 percentage points, “Confidence in Town Government” an increase of 20 points, “Being Honest” with an increase of 20 points, and “Treating all Residents Fairly” with an increase in 18 points. Several of these categories ranked higher than the national benchmark, being ranked in the top 20 out of 250 comparable communities.

Residents also gave high marks in customer service as well as the efforts we have taken collectively to preserve openspace (with the town protecting 250 acres of greenspace the last 3 years) and redeveloping or revitalizing existing built areas. Our public safety departments continue their superb track record of providing excellent prevention and response services.

At the same time residents, while acknowledging the work being done to improve our downtown and commercial base, wished to see more advancement in these areas. I hope that our efforts over the next several years will result in a noticeable increase in these areas but most importantly the quality of life for both residents and visitors.

Traffic flow, parking availability, and road condition also had statistically significant lower marks than the previous survey. This is not surprising as many of us have had to endure the congestion problems throughout Metrowest, and a lot of construction work has only exacerbated that problem. One way we can alleviate those issues is to focus on our pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure to provide alternative modes of transportation. This is another area that residents would like us to work on.

In closing, while we still have areas to improve we seem to be on the right track in most areas. I cannot emphasize enough how important this information is for us as prepare our agenda for the next few years. Those of you that had the opportunity to take and complete the survey have done a valuable service for Ashland and I want to thank you because I know it is not brief. Thanks should also be given to the Select Board for their support and Assistant Town Manager Jenn Ball for spearheading this.

Michael Herbert

Ashland Town Manager

The National Citizen Survey Reports for Ashland