News

Menlo Park: City's 'satisfaction survey' raises red flags for some

Menlo Park's biennial survey by Godbe Research, circulated randomly among residents in early December to gauge their satisfaction with city services, raised concerns for some respondents that the way several questions were phrased may result in wrong conclusions.

Specifically, several residents emailed the City Council to say that questions regarding a plan to rebuild the Menlo Park main library appeared to be written to generate support for the project.

"I strongly support rebuilding (or just building) a new library for the 'Bayside of 101' but hugely do not support rebuilding the Main library," Dana Gleson wrote. "I feel that the questions were biased and worded so as to support rebuilding the Main library."

An email signed Teddy and Robert Wilson says: "I can’t imagine that the answers to the questions as written would provide any useful information. Of course an improved library would provide all the services described and would be a good thing. Agreeing that those are a good thing is not the same as agreeing that the city should accept the developer’s offer of financing."

City Manager Alex McIntyre said the library-related questions were designed to ascertain general public opinion. He acknowledged that some respondents may favor a new Belle Haven library over a new main library.

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The survey also asked what residents think about the possibility of a seven-story, mixed-use parking garage being built on a current parking lot. There are no plans to build such a parking garage, Mr. McIntyre noted.

He pointed out that at the start of the year, the council made it a priority to look into a parking structure; the survey will determine if there's public sentiment to move forward with the concept. Doing so would require changing the zoning in the downtown specific plan, he said.

The survey was conducted via internet and telephone and was available in Spanish. The surveyors hoped to receive responses from at least 400 Menlo Park residents who are registered voters, according to city analyst Peter Ibrahim.

Godbe Research will present the survey's findings to the City Council.

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Menlo Park: City's 'satisfaction survey' raises red flags for some

by / Almanac

Uploaded: Mon, Dec 11, 2017, 10:21 am

Menlo Park's biennial survey by Godbe Research, circulated randomly among residents in early December to gauge their satisfaction with city services, raised concerns for some respondents that the way several questions were phrased may result in wrong conclusions.

Specifically, several residents emailed the City Council to say that questions regarding a plan to rebuild the Menlo Park main library appeared to be written to generate support for the project.

"I strongly support rebuilding (or just building) a new library for the 'Bayside of 101' but hugely do not support rebuilding the Main library," Dana Gleson wrote. "I feel that the questions were biased and worded so as to support rebuilding the Main library."

An email signed Teddy and Robert Wilson says: "I can’t imagine that the answers to the questions as written would provide any useful information. Of course an improved library would provide all the services described and would be a good thing. Agreeing that those are a good thing is not the same as agreeing that the city should accept the developer’s offer of financing."

City Manager Alex McIntyre said the library-related questions were designed to ascertain general public opinion. He acknowledged that some respondents may favor a new Belle Haven library over a new main library.

The survey also asked what residents think about the possibility of a seven-story, mixed-use parking garage being built on a current parking lot. There are no plans to build such a parking garage, Mr. McIntyre noted.

He pointed out that at the start of the year, the council made it a priority to look into a parking structure; the survey will determine if there's public sentiment to move forward with the concept. Doing so would require changing the zoning in the downtown specific plan, he said.

The survey was conducted via internet and telephone and was available in Spanish. The surveyors hoped to receive responses from at least 400 Menlo Park residents who are registered voters, according to city analyst Peter Ibrahim.

Godbe Research will present the survey's findings to the City Council.

Comments

sjtaffee
Registered user
Menlo Park: The Willows
on Dec 11, 2017 at 12:28 pm
sjtaffee, Menlo Park: The Willows
Registered user
on Dec 11, 2017 at 12:28 pm

I'm not entirely sure how Godbe Research creates their survey questions. A best practice is to perform a small test with randomized users to determine if the questions are clear and unearth any potential bias. As professionals, one can only assume this was conducted prior to sending it to the community.


Dana Hendrickson
Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Dec 11, 2017 at 1:52 pm
Dana Hendrickson, Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Dec 11, 2017 at 1:52 pm

Asking residents for feedback on a 7-story garage/mutiuse facility without first (1) demonstrating the need for a specific number of spaces supported with a reasonable analysis and projection, (2) evaluating alternative approaches to increasing parking capacity downtown, (3) describing the other facility uses, (4) providing estimates for the cost of building such a huge structure, and indicating where it would be located is like asking a child if it would like an ice cream sundae. It would be better to present a design concept, description and tops-down justification, something that residents could appreciate.


JulieR
Menlo Park: Downtown
on Dec 11, 2017 at 3:08 pm
JulieR, Menlo Park: Downtown
on Dec 11, 2017 at 3:08 pm

This is not the first time. The city is very bad at collecting the information it needs to do its job well. Remember when they surveyed only Santa Cruz Avenue homeowners about whether a sidewalk and bike lane were needed there?


Lynne Bramlett
Registered user
Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Dec 11, 2017 at 5:08 pm
Lynne Bramlett, Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
Registered user
on Dec 11, 2017 at 5:08 pm

The city should post the survey to let the public decide for themselves if the survey is an objective, impartial survey or a biased one with loaded or leading questions, forced choices and so forth. I've also written the city <Web Link to ask that they post the entire survey. While searching to try to find Menlo Park's survey, I came across an unfavorable Yelp review about Godbe Research <Web Link for a 2015 survey. The Portola Valley reviewer stated that "instead of an accurate survey of community opinion, it was instead filled with biased questions, undocumented statements and presented false choices that forced responders into accepting the agencies position..." I also found a 2016 article from The Daily Independent <Web Link that raised concerns about a Godbe survey that "provided the data" to support a particular bond measure. That article also raised concerns about a biased survey process designed to lead towards a predetermined, city desired outcome. The city should post the survey for full transparency. Give the public the full facts by posting the original, complete survey.


who runs the city?
Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Dec 11, 2017 at 5:24 pm
who runs the city?, Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Dec 11, 2017 at 5:24 pm

the questions about a downtown parking garage were quite surprising. The downtown plan does not allow garages that tall.

As far as I know, the city council did not direct staff to ask questions about a downtown garage. So who directed Godbe to ask?


Employee survey
Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Dec 11, 2017 at 7:16 pm
Employee survey, Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Dec 11, 2017 at 7:16 pm

Wait till the results of the employee survey. Comes out. Not all is well


pogo
Registered user
Woodside: other
on Dec 11, 2017 at 7:35 pm
pogo, Woodside: other
Registered user
on Dec 11, 2017 at 7:35 pm

Maybe UC's Janet Napolitano helped with the survey.


MR
Menlo Park: Felton Gables
on Dec 11, 2017 at 8:11 pm
MR, Menlo Park: Felton Gables
on Dec 11, 2017 at 8:11 pm

I do surveys all the time for work and abandoned this one in the middle because it was too leading to suggest the sender wanted real results. I came across like a political marketing initiative.

MR


Menlo Voter.
Registered user
Menlo Park: other
on Dec 11, 2017 at 8:51 pm
Menlo Voter., Menlo Park: other
Registered user
on Dec 11, 2017 at 8:51 pm

"I do surveys all the time for work and abandoned this one in the middle because it was too leading to suggest the sender wanted real results. I came across like a political marketing initiative."

Imagine that.


JP
Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Dec 11, 2017 at 9:28 pm
JP, Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Dec 11, 2017 at 9:28 pm

Same as a number of comments above: started dutifully filling out the survey, as the intent seemed worthy, but quit half-way as it became obvious the goal was all but biased toward surreptitiously building a case for some predetermined self interested outcome. Who reviewed/approved the survey?


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