A survey of how San Diegans feel about their city services indicates a fairly high level of satisfaction -- but not with the overall direction the city is taking.
Trash collection got the highest rating in the scientific survey, which the City Council discussed at a briefing Wednesday. Public safety responses by police and fire fighters were close behind, despite recent budget cuts.
Among the lowest-rated were efforts to address homelessness, the condition of city streets and the availability of downtown parking. Nearly half of those surveyed suggested tax increases to avoid service cuts.
"[City employees] have already had their pay cut," said Joan Raymond, president of the Local 127 of the American Federation of Federal, State, County and Municipal Employees, which represents about 2,000 blue-collar city workers.
"We've had drastic pension reform," Raymond added. "So some of the more moderate-voiced people realize if you want something, it's not free."
Seventy-four percent of survey respondents suggested the use of more private contractors in "managed competition' with city departments.
"Clearly, people are interested in outsourcing and privatizing city services," said Liam Dillon, government affairs reporter for the online newspaper voiceofsandiego.org. "They think it will help the city save some money more than anything else -- even further decreases to employee compensation."
City Councilman Carl DeMaio noted that the survey questionnaire, developed by the council's office of Independent Budget Analyst and the polling firm Behavior Research Center, didn't offer further pension reform as a strategy to deal with the city's budget deficit.
"I would question what the survey would have been like had we used the word 'pension' once," DeMaio said.
Sixty-percent of the respondents rated the "overall direction" the city is taking as fair to poor, and three out of four said the city does a fair to poor job of listening to its citizens.
Eighty-eight percent of those surveyed said they expect to remain in San Diego for the next five years and would recommend living here to others. Growth was the most serious issue to only 1 percent, and the economy, 2 percent. "Poor city leadership" was cited by 3 percent.
The city budget analyst's office paid $24,000 for the survey out of funds allocated for that purpose by the mayor's business office in 2008.
The survey was conducted from late February through March, by way of a scientifically random sample -- "weighted" for demographics -- of 600 city residents contacted by telephone.