More than two-thirds of respondents to an informal snowclearing survey say they’d pay more taxes for better snowclearing in St. John’s — and they think sidewalks should be the focus.
A MUN student walks along Empire Avenue near the intersection of Newtown Road in March. A survey by Happy City St. John’s shows many residents would pay more taxes to get better snowclearing. — Telegram file photo
As of Wednesday, volunteer group Happy City St. John’s — which aims to encourage public discussion on civic issues — has had 475 voluntary responses to an online survey of winter problems and solutions. The group released some early results Wednesday ahead of a public forum on snowclearing at city hall, indicating the top problem among respondents is sidewalks covered in ice and snow.
The top winter issues, according to respondents:
1. Sidewalks aren’t accessible or usable;
2. Walking in winter is dangerous;
3. Moving around for anyone with mobility challenges is almost impossible;
4. It’s difficult to be active and healthy in wintertime;
5. Important parts of the streetscape — hydrants, crosswalks, bus stops — are inaccessible.
Happy City chairman Josh Smee said he’s pleased with how much thought people put into their responses.
“What’s really impressive to me is how much thought people put into it, and how much people are willing to have a really serious conversation about what the tradeoffs might be in terms of changing how we do snowclearing in the city,” he said.
“This is kind of an experiment for us, because obviously it’s an emotional issue for people, especially after a rough winter. We weren’t sure how much constructive feedback we’d get, but we got a lot.”
Sixty-nine per cent of respondents so far said they’d accept higher taxes for better snowclearing, with the average amount people are willing to pay, more than they already do, at $300.
The survey also asks for suggestions on how to improve snowclearing from people who don’t want higher taxes. The top four responses:
1. Better budgeting and efficiency;
2. Bylaw mandating property owners clear their walks;
3. Ticket revenue;
4. Developer fees.
A majority of respondents — 57 per cent — identified themselves as being residents of Ward 2, which encompasses downtown.
“Ward 2 has probably a disproportionate number of people who rely on getting around on foot or by public transit as their primary method of getting around the city, and I think those are the people who often feel the most immediately affected by snowclearing, so I’m not surprised they were fairly motivated to fill out the survey.”
Smee said Wednesday’s forum will feature some of the survey’s ideas explored in more detail, and Happy City will provide a report of the results to the city, which is preparing its own formal, independent review of snowclearing operations.
“We’ll pass it on to anyone who wants it. City staff for sure — whenever they choose a consultant to do the snowclearing review, I think that’ll be really useful for them, just to see where people’s heads are coming out of the winter. We’ll also be making the raw data available for people who want to take a look at the responses and pull some interesting ideas out of them, because there’s more in there than we can summarize in a one-pager or two-pager that people might find really useful.”