The results of the city's Citizen Survey are in, and it shows that 90 percent of respondents rate the overall quality of life in Destin as "excellent" or "good."
"The survey reflects that Destin is a wonderful place to live, work, play and raise a family," City Manager Maryann Ustick told The Log. "Our staff continues to provide outstanding services to our citizens despite very limited resources and reductions in staffing levels over the past years."
The Citizen Survey is conducted through the National Research Center and the International City/County Management Association. The survey focuses on areas of a city such as public safety, community design, public trust, community quality, civic engagement and environmental sustainability.
Within each focus area, the survey is broken down into smaller categories, such as transportation, housing, parks and recreation, social engagement, and information and awareness.
Out of the 1,200 full-time households surveyed, 307 completed surveys were returned for a 32 percent response rate. The surveys were distributed randomly.
Based on the survey's executive summary, the overall image or reputation of Destin and air quality received the "most favorable" ratings, while traffic flow on major streets and the ease of bus travel in the city received the "least positive" ratings.
"There probably shouldn't be any big surprises here," Tom Miller, founder and president of the National Research Center said of the transportation aspect.
As the "transportation guy" on the dais, Councilman Jim Wood told his colleagues that progress has been made over the past few years, but the results of the survey don't reflect that.
"The reality doesn't seem to jibe with the responses I see," he said. "Lots of places have great biking facilities and walking paths."
Unfortunately there is no "silver bullet" to fix the transportation problems that face the city.
"It's very difficult to figure out what we can do," Wood said.
Looking at other results from the survey, residents in Destin are civically engaged. Only 28 percent of residents had attended a public meeting in the previous 12 months, but 94 percent of respondents noted that they had helped a friend or a neighbor.
Eighty-eight percent of respondents are "somewhat" or "very likely" to recommend Destin as a place to live, compared to 91 percent in 2010. Eighty-six percent of respondents are "somewhat" or "very likely" to remain in Destin for the next five years, compared to 91 percent in 2010.
As for public safety in the city, about 88 percent of those completing the questionnaire said they felt “very” or “somewhat” safe from violent crimes and 86 percent felt “very” or “somewhat” safe from environmental hazards.
The survey also included custom questions where city leaders could ask very specific questions about a variety of topics. Questions ranged from what improvements residents might be willing to fund through additional taxes, from what mediums they preferred to receive their information about the city from, and to what extent do you support increasing the millage to ensure that city services continue to be provided at current levels.
Fifty-eight percent of respondents said they would be willing to fund roadway improvements or measures to reduce traffic congestions, while 27 percent would be willing to pony up to help stabilize Norriego Point, and 29 percent would help fund multi-use paths.
As for an increase in the millage rate, 5 percent of respondents would "strongly" support an increase and 47 percent would "somewhat" support an increase, while 22 percent "somewhat" opposes an increase and 25 percent "strongly" oppose any increase.
The Citizen Survey is the third survey the city has conducted this year, along with the business survey and the internal employee survey.
With the results of the survey in hand, Ustick said city leaders must now take the information and put it to good use, as actionable items.
"We will be using this information in the upcoming Council visioning session, in our strategic planning and in the budgeting process to ensure that we are focusing on the services and projects that are most important to our citizens and promote the overall vitality, quality and livability of our city," Ustick told The Log.