People like the community and diversity in Watertown, but would like to see improvements in the schools and affordability, according to the preliminary results of a survey being conducted by a resident group called Watertown Forward.
The group started as an effort to help people understand the Town Charter and the once-a-decade Charter Review, but the group seeks to keep people engaged, said Nicole Gardner, a member of Watertown Forward.
“We want to encourage them to get engaged. (Watertown Forward is) at this moment hyper-focused on charter review. There are hopes for a greater outcome from our work,” Gardner said. “If we get people knowledgable, get them involved, get their voice heard it will broaden the impact down the road.”
To get an idea of what people in Watertown are focused on, Watertown Forward put together an online survey.
“We asked: what works well, what makes Watertown special for you and your family, what could be better,” Gardner said. “We listed big issues, big things, and asked them to rate them.”
The group recently released the results, so far. Gardner sent out links to the survey to email lists, she put them on local Facebook groups, and other places. The survey was taken by about 500 people. The group hopes to get even more people to take the survey, so they kept it open.
Looking at survey results, Gardner said some themes emerged.
What makes Watertown a better place to live? People’s top responses were location, community and diversity. Other areas that got a lot of response were biking and walking, feeling safe, and the schools.
The responses to the question about what could improved include, Gardner said, “Investing more in a sense community and neighborhoods, and improving the schools.”
Some other areas for improvement include: affordability, parks and recreation, supporting businesses and restaurants, and making biking and walking paths better.
The survey also asked what people thought about local government.
“As I read it, it feels like a push toward more focus on the people, serving the people of Watertown,” Gardner said. “I think historically we have done well on budget management, but people want to feel more included in the process. They want the government to ask me questions and tell me stuff.”
Communication from the Town’s government to residents also emerged as a concern, Gardner said.
“Whether it is asking me about my needs and trying to understand them, or telling me what they are doing, what are you working on,” Gardner said. “Half the respondents are saying they are doing a poor job.”
While the data from the survey may not fit directly into the work of the Charter Review Committee, Gardner said Watertown Forward hopes elected officials and the Town administration can keep it in mind when they make decisions.
“We hope they don’t take this and feel defensive. We hope this empowers them,” Gardner said.