Did half of all Londoners really not flush their toilets for over a year?
In 2012, the City of London commissioned the polling firm Environics to explore citizen satisfaction. The results were mostly as one would expect. Londoners ranked employment as their top concern and they were generally satisfied with the city’s livability. They saw parks, open spaces and the ability to walk to important places as key to that livability. Where things got interesting, however, was that when asked if they’d used a municipal service in the past year, only 54% of respondents said that they had.
While that survey was seven years ago, the results have stuck with me to this day. One of the reasons I ran to become a city councillor is because local government is the level of government that has the most direct impact on our daily lives. If not done right, the consequences are felt almost immediately.
The City of London delivers approximately 100 unique services to Londoners. From garbage collection to drinking water, from snow plowing to providing protective services such as paramedics, police and fire fighters, it’s really tough to imagine going a single day without using a municipal service. For seven years, I’ve been wondering how almost half of those surveyed were able to go a year without walking on a sidewalk, flushing their toilet, turning on their lights, or visiting a single park. The reality is, they really didn’t go that long without using a city service, it’s just that city services are so ubiquitous, it hadn’t occurred to them that they had probably used one within five minutes of answering the survey.
This creates some significant challenges for governments. If people are unaware of the service they’re receiving, will they rate those services as important to them? And if they aren’t rated as important, do the services then become at risk of losing support or funding?
When the public service is doing its job well, we don’t see what could have happened if they weren’t there. We’ve become accustomed to knowing someone will be there to help us within minutes when we call 911. We dine in restaurants without much worry of getting sick from the food. We drink from the tap without much thought of the places where it isn’t so safe to do so. So much of the value we get from public services just blends into the background as we go through our daily lives.
It’s important to take some time to think about the services we receive from all levels of government, be it municipal, provincial, federal, or school boards, and consider what impact it would have on our lives if those services were reduced or weren’t there at all. However, the next step is the most crucial: If you want to keep them, please make sure you let your government representative know how important those services are to you. I know I, for one, would love to hear from you.
As originally published in the Wortley Villager
Citizen Satisfaction surveys for London, Ontario can be found here: