Homelessness is the top concern for Salem residents, according to the 2021 Community Satisfaction Survey. Most residents, however, are generally satisfied with core City services.
Since 2016, the City has commissioned the Community Satisfaction Survey to better understand community priorities. Insights drawn from the survey and other outreach activities help City leaders plan for the future of Salem. Survey results are one input into the City Council's annual workplan – the City Council Policy Agenda – which provides direction to the organization and informs the City's budget.
The year has been challenging on many levels for most in our community, the region and the nation. The economic and social impacts of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic continue to impact Salem area residents, businesses, and those lacking shelter in our community. In addition to ongoing tension around protests within our community, Salem residents experienced the President's day weekend ice storm and resulting power outages, followed by extreme heat in late June.
"Feedback from the residents we serve is always helpful," said Steve Powers, Salem City Manager. "The City has been tested over the past year, and the survey results indicate where we have work to do."
Most satisfied with core City services. For most of 2021, many City services continued to be offered online. Consistent with responses since 2016, seven of 10 residents are generally satisfied with core City services including fire and emergency services, police, parks, water, and stormwater services. Residents also report finding it relatively easy to walk or bike in Salem, and to get a permit or pay a bill. More residents (69%) say they are prepared for a natural disaster.
Homelessness remains the most important issue for residents. More residents (58%) list homelessness issues as most important for Salem. This is consistent with many communities where homelessness is a top concern, including many in the broader Portland metro region, the I-5 corridor to Eugene, and along the coast.
Optimism Continues to Decline. Optimism in the direction the City is heading continues to decline. A majority (57%) of respondents say the decline can be attributed to a combination of City actions and circumstances beyond the City's control. In addition, more people are not satisfied with the value they receive for taxes and fees paid (56%). Most (64%) feel their area receives its fair share of City services but find services are not distributed fairly across the City (47%). While half believe Salem residents of all identities and backgrounds are treated fairly and with respect, fewer residents of color (43%) believe everyone is treated fairly and respectfully. Most residents (83%) believe it is the responsibility of all residents to ensure the community is welcoming to everyone.
Room for Improvement. Residents find room for improvement with coordination of services for homeless residents (77%); maintenance of City streets, sidewalks, and bridges (49%); providing affordable housing (44%); City planning and development review (44%); enforcement of City codes for noise, yard upkeep, etc. (42%); and safety for people walking or biking in Salem (42%).
The 2021 Community Satisfaction Survey was conducted from August 12 to August 16, 2021 via cell and land-line telephone calls, with an online option to both English and Spanish-speaking Salem residents. DHM Research took measures to ensure survey responses accurately represented all areas of the City and the diverse backgrounds of its residents.