Survey finds size is Cape's best quality

Tuesday, July 2, 2002

Not too big, not too small. Just right.

According to Vision 2020 survey results released Monday, residents say the city's best quality is its size.

Residents here also say they like the low crime in Cape Girardeau, the medical facilities and having a university in town. They think the fire department is doing a great job and are pleased with the parks and recreation department, the waste disposal and police service as well.

The things they like least about the city are the traffic, the job market, the stores and the entertainment. They feel the city could improve with the introduction of public transportation, more street and stormwater improvements and more police.

But after weighing the positives and negatives, Cape Girardeau is a good place to live, according a majority of the 336 Cape Girardeau residents who returned a survey to Vision 2020, an advisory committee aimed at making Cape Girardeau a progressive community. Vision 2020 presented the survey findings to some city government leaders Monday afternoon.

Surveys were mailed to 2,600 randomly selected Cape Girardeau residents on April 19. The 13 percent return rate was good, assistant manager Walter Denton said, but the city was hoping for better.

Of those who responded, 76 percent said their quality of life in the city was good or excellent, and 86 percent said they believed Cape Girardeau is a good place to raise a family. Some who didn't take the survey agreed.

"It's small enough to be comfortable and large enough to give our family opportunities," said Cape Girardeau resident Cathy Tenkhoff.

At Capaha Park, while waiting for her daughter to finish swimming, Angie Grissom said the same thing.

"It's got all the benefits of a big city, but it's got the small-town atmosphere," Grissom said.

Seventeen percent of those surveyed rated the quality of life as excellent, while 59 percent said quality of life here is good.

Mayor Jay Knudtson commended Vision 2020 for its overall commitment to the city and for conducting the survey.

"As a result, we now have valuable tools for our government leaders," he said. "I don't pretend to have all the answers. What you try to do is make your decisions based on the will of the citizens. We will use this as a tool as we prioritize."

Comparing to past results

Vision 2020 conducted similar surveys in 1987 and 1994, when the group's name was Vision 2000. This year's survey included many of the same questions and got many of the same results.

However, not everything remained the same.

Perhaps the biggest change from 1994 is the opinion of the schools.

Only 49 percent said they are confident of the school system's leadership, but that's a huge jump from eight years ago, when only 16 percent were confident.

The opinion of the quality of education at the junior high and the high school improved dramatically as well. In 1994, 54 and 55 percent thought the education quality was good or excellent at the high school and junior high school. In 2002, that opinion went up to 72 percent approval at the high school and 70 percent at the junior high.

"I think that has to do with leadership," councilman Matt Hopkins said. "And you have the new buildings and so forth. We pretty much have state-of-the-art schools throughout the district now, and that will go a long way toward economic growth."

Health opinions worsen

The opinion of health care in Cape Girardeau has dropped since the survey was done in 1994, but most are satisfied. Sixty-three percent, down from 70 percent in 1994, believe the doctors and hospitals here provide quality health care.

"We've got a couple hospitals here who are competing with each other," said Cape Girardeau resident Donna Sanders, who did not take the survey. "I think both try to have the highest technology."

Another significant change since 1994 is the belief that Cape Girardeau is a progressive community. Sixty-seven percent said they believe the city is a progressive community, up from just 46 percent in 1994.

Forty-nine percent rated the overall performance of the city government as good to excellent, up 10 percent from 1994 and 18 percent since 1987.

bmiller@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 127

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