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City-wide survey results are in. Here’s what residents are most concerned about.

Here's what Betsy Covington has to say about the On the Table survey results.

The On the Table survey results were released Tuesday by the Community Foundation of the Chattahoochee Valley.
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The On the Table survey results were released Tuesday by the Community Foundation of the Chattahoochee Valley.

Chattahoochee Valley residents who participated in a recent On the Table community-wide survey were most concerned about crime and education, according to results released Tuesday by the Community Foundation of the Chattahoochee Valley.

Of seven issues most frequently raised by respondents, the top two concerns were public safety/the judicial system and education/youth development, each mentioned by 31 percent of the respondents.

Economic issues/poverty was next at 24 percent, followed by equity/social inclusion with 23 percent.

Respondents were most unhappy about public safety (56 percent), job opportunities (44 percent), local government (38 percent) and public transportation (34 percent).

The survey was conducted by the University of Illinois at Chicago’s Institute of Policy and Civic Engagement following community-wide On the Table conversations held on Nov. 7, involving 6,500 residents throughout the Chattahoochee Valley.

Columbus was one of 10 cities across the country selected by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation to bring people together for discussions about opportunities and challenges in their communities.

The Community Foundation released the results Tuesday at The Loft on Broadway. Those in attendance included members of the CFCV steering committee, ambassadors for the initiative and super hosts who sponsored meals through their businesses, churches and organizations.

Betsy Covington, president and CEO of the CFCV, said the impact on the community continues.

“I can tell you that we are already hearing that some of these tables have continued to meet across our community; they didn’t stop on Nov. 7,” she said. “There are projects that are taking place that bubbled up from ideas that came from some of the tables.”

For many people, “it was a real reminder that personal relationships matter as we work together to build the community that we want for our children and our grandchildren,” she added.

Covington said the project was so successful that the Knight Foundation has agreed to extend the program for another two years. The CFCV will update the community soon on future On the Table conversations, the first of which will probably be held in the fall, she said.

Of those who participated in 600 conversations held throughout the community, 1,182 responded to the survey. Seventy-one percent were female, 60 percent were white, 32 percent were black, and 42 percent had graduate degrees. When it came to age, the highest percentage of respondents were 60 and up, at 27 percent.

Homeowners also were overrepresented in the survey. Seventy-one percent indicated that they owned their primary residence, and 24 percent said they rented.

Thirty percent of the respondents live in the 31906 and 31907 zip codes, 28 percent in 31904 and 31909, 10 percent in 31820 and 8 percent in 31901.

“Respondents largely mentioned crime in their conversations, such as the ‘high crime rate’ and ‘widespread crime’ that is affecting their communities,” according to the report. “‘My biggest concern,’ one respondent explained, ‘was the recent crime in our city as a whole.’”

“Several respondents noted that ‘the crime in our city has increased’ and there is ‘increased crime in various neighborhoods and communities,’ especially with regard to ‘homicides, gangs and shootings.’”

Concerning education and youth development, the survey found that “education and schools were a primary focus for respondents, particularly ‘severe inequity in our school system’ and the ‘need for quality education.’”

“... In discussing the education system, one respondent described it as ‘ineffective and overwhelmed,’ and another respondent brought up ‘low-performing schools,” according to the survey. “Some respondents reported a lack of ‘quality school options in the Muscogee County, particularly middle school options.’”

When asked about their trust in local leadership, the answer depended on age.

The oldest group of respondents — 60 years old and older — indicated “a great deal” of trust, with the highest rate of 22 percent. That compared to an average of 9 percent of respondents from all other age groups.

The oldest age group also had the lowest proportion of participants selecting “not very much” trust at a 22-percent rate compared to all other age groups, which averaged 29 percent.

Kelli Parker, CFCV’s director of grants and community partnerships, said researchers informed the organization that the over-representation of older, educated white participants is typical because it’s a demographic that tends to show up most for surveys.

“What we do hope, though, is that we can increase the variance in all of these percentages in coming years, that more and more people will take this,” she said, “because the more voices we hear the better we learn what the voice of our community is.”

The full survey report is available at onthetablechatt.com, Covington said, and she would like to see people utilize the information to improve the Chattahoochee Valley.

“At the Community Foundation we have great vision for this community,” she said. “... I want people to own this data. I want them to use it in their businesses and in their organizations to inform how they’re focusing on connecting people within our community.”

Alva James-Johnson: 706-571-8521, @amjreporter

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