Saturday, Oct 25, 2014
Editorials

Local cities need a good way to find out what their citizens want


Published:

There's a big opportunity in Highlands County if someone with the expertise is willing to give it a go. That business opportunity would be to provide accurate, affordable polling data on local issues to help direct local governments.

In Avon Park, the city has had an online poll concerning trash and recycling. Now the city wants to do the same concerning fluoridation of the city's water supply. The problem is that a miniscule number of people participate in these polls so the information gleaned is basically worthless.

In Sebring, the city council is split on whether to put a voter referendum on the ballot concerning moving city elections to coincide with November elections. So few people cast ballots in the last city election it caused alarm - and it should. The council split on whether a binding or non-binding referendum should be put on the next ballot.

It could be argued that if citizens care enough, they'll show up and be heard. What also could be argued, and is definitely true, is that most people don't even know about it. That's why extra effort should made to know what the people want.

In Avon Park, having a city sponsored web poll to make decisions is inadequate because so few people participate. What both cities need is quality information on what their citizens want, and the council should follow that data in most matters to the best of the city's ability.

A quality poll would provide good information on which to base decisions within a small margin of error. Unfortunately, such polls are usually expensive. That's where South Florida State College or an entrepreneur with the skills to provide quality polling could be successful.

Even in respected national political polls, a small sampling of a cross section of the population renders good information. As much as most critics of polling complain, the fact is, they're usually accurate unless it's an extremely tight race.

Local cities and towns, as well as the county itself, needs a good way to measure what people want on the issues that affect them the most. Right now they don't have that.

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