The results of the 2019 National Citizens Survey presented at city council last week confirmed what many New Braunfels city officials already have heard — New Braunfelsers want the city to focus on mobility, the economy and safety.
These are concerns the city is already actively working to tackle, Mayor Barron Casteel said, and city officials take them into strong consideration thanks to the survey, City Manager Robert Camareno said.
“This is now our fourth survey that we’ve done,” Camareno said. “The survey identifies our strengths and weaknesses through the eyes of the citizens that we serve and provides both our elected officials and staff with important insight.”
The survey is one of many ways that city officials work to gain public input, Casteel said.
“We have public input meetings … in addition to all the various regular committee meetings and council meetings where we seek input,” Casteel said.
What’s great about the survey is that it takes a cross section of New Braunfels citizens and reaches people who may tend to be quieter, Casteel said.
“If you look at the sheets of the details of who all responded, it’s a cross section of demographics, age groups, backgrounds which I think are extremely important,” Casteel said. “We (may) also get input from people that don’t normally — or are sometimes hesitant to speak up.”
The survey is a way city officials can engage citizens and get their responses on what the critical issues for New Braunfels are, Casteel said.
For example, most residents identified mobility as a top priority in the next two years, with 91% saying it was essential or important, said Morgan Adams, research associate with the National Research Center.
“We saw the results of the survey and overwhelmingly folks want us to address mobility or streets in our community, and so we have used that information for the 2013 bond program, where there was significant street widening projects and enhanced annual street maintenance — the 2019 bond program, same thing,” Camareno said.
The survey reinforces what the city is already trying to do, said Public Works Director Greg Malatek.
“During the 2019 bond discussion, I know council was really determined to spend the majority of the dollars on street and road improvements, and so this reinforces council’s direction,” Malatek said. “
In addition to the bond, there is the $8 million worth of roadway impact fees, Casteel said.
“That is the single largest expenditure that the city will make over the next five years of this capital program,” Casteel said.
The survey highlighted safety as a concern of residents as well, which is why the bond also aims to address needs there, Casteel said.
“The second largest investment that the city council will be making (is on public safety), obviously with the citizens’ approval through the 2019 bond, (the survey is) just a great way to reinforce your strategies and your direction,” Casteel said.
As far as the economy, the survey found nine in 10 residents said the city should prioritize the economy, and many responders also found the city already excelled in a number of economic measures, Adams said.
Three quarters (78%) felt positively about the overall economic health of New Braunfels, and nine in 10 (92%) assigned excellent or good scores to New Braunfels as a place to visit.
“Consistently through the years New Braunfelsers have been supportive of economic development,” said Mike Meek, president and CEO of the Greater New Braunfels Chamber of Commerce. “They understand the importance of bringing in new wealth and good jobs. Otherwise we are not sustainable as a community.”
Eight in 10 were pleased with public places where people want to spend time, and about three quarters felt positively about the overall quality of business and service establishments and about shopping opportunities.
“Since 1995 the chamber and city have partnered together on economic development formally,” Meek said. “That is when voters approved the half-cent economic development sales tax.”
Even dating back to the 1940s, the city and chamber have worked together for the betterment of the city, Meek said.
Another area that residents applauded was the New Braunfels Parks and Recreation department.
“We saw very large increases for reviews for recreation centers, which increased from 70% positive in 2017 to 85% this year,” Adams said.
This is likely due to the opening of the new recreation center, Das Rec, said Stacey Dicke, parks and recreation director.
“Das Rec has vastly expanded the recreation opportunities for New Braunfels residents,” Dicke said. “The wide variety of activities inside the building appeal to a wide segment of our community.”
About nine in 10 respondents felt that outdoor recreation was somewhat or very important, and seven in 10 felt that river related recreation and indoor recreation were also important.
“We are very fortunate to have great parks that are supported by the folks that live here,” Dicke said. “Our parks are well loved and well used.”
For more information on the results or to see the full detailed report, visit www.nbtexas.org/1494/Citizen-Survey.