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E-Board’s online survey going off line

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For a bit

By Lynn Burton

Sopris Sun Staff Writer

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A Carbondale Environmental Board online survey appears headed for some tweaking, after a consultant agreed with The Sopris Sun that it seems deficient in at least one area and probably others.

Question #7 on the survey, which was posted on the town’s website (carbondalegov.org) on Friday, asks: “How should sustainability programs and expanded services (editor’s note: such as a circulator bus) be funded? (Choose your top three).”

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The options are:

• Dedicated tax;

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• Bond with voter approval;

• Increased utility program funding;

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• Severance tax/federal mineral lease money;

• Crowd-funding/donations;

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• Town general fund;

• County funding;

• Utility bill surcharge;

• Gasoline tax.

There is no “None of the above” type answer for respondents who don’t want any money to be spent on sustainability programs or expanded services, or at least not the nine listed on the survey.

And, the survey requires that question #7, plus several others, must be answered or the survey will not be accepted. So, respondents are forced to list their top three preferences for funding, even if they might not agree that programs and services should be funded by the town, county, a utility bill surcharge or any other source. In April, voters shot down a proposal to fund programs through a surcharge on their electric and gas bills.

E-Board consultant Lucy Kessler of CORE, who helped write the survey, told The Sopris Sun she supposes she can go back online and include a neutral-type answer. She said the E-board’s thinking was that the previous two questions asked if residents “would be in favor of a car-share program” and whether the town should partner with RFTA to expand the in-town shuttle/circulator bus route. “If people support (programs), how should they be funded? That was the idea,” Kessler said.

Background

The E-Board decided to draft a survey to gauge the public’s thoughts on sustainability and related issues about two months ago. E-Board chair Julie Farwell told The Sun that Kessler, Erica Sparhawk (of CLEER) and board member Patrick Hunter were most involved in drafting the survey, which the E-Board recently approved for posting although it did not vote on it. “It wasn’t officially voted on but we did ask board members for their input on it in a shared google doc and the finalized version was made available for them to comment on-but nobody really did,” said Farwell in an e-mail to The Sun. In a follow up e-mail, she said the board did have input on the survey questions but that nobody wanted to change anything from the final version.

Farwell said the E-Board is also sending out the survey with the town’s July water bills. She said the E-Board is updating the town’s energy plan, which was written and approved by the town trustees, in 2006. That process led to the questionnaire, which is being conducted online by Survey Monkey.

The first eight survey questions ask respondents to: strongly agree, agree, neutral, disagree or strongly disagree, and mostly pertain to climate change. The questions include:

• The earth is getting warmer. The climate is changing.

• Human caused emissions are causing climate change.

• Governments should not be involved in addressing

climate change.

• I feel a personal an obligation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

• I am aware of Carbondale’s greenhouse gas emissions goals.

The survey then asks about primary modes of transportation, composting and expanding the plastic bag ban to all stores.

Question #10 states, “The Town of Carbondale, The Environmental Board, CLEER and CORE offer a variety of programs and events. Do you recall hearing about or participating in any of the following” and lists three options: I participated in this, I’ve heard of it, and I’ve never heard of it.

The list includes:

• Waste diversion/spring clean up day;

• Home energy assessments;

• Rebates for energy efficient upgrades for my home;

• Christmas tree recycling program.

The town and E-Board are offering ten, $25 gift cards to City Market, town. (sic), Mi Casita and other restaurants to respondents who want to be included in a drawing for them.

Other problems

After respondents submit their online surveys to Survey Monkey, the chimp will not let them return to the survey questions. Kessler explained that this is so that respondents can only answer one time, and the results won’t be skewed. However, the Sun pointed out, the survey is also a public document, which the public should be able to access, regardless of whether they have already submitted their survey. Kessler said the way to fix this problem would be to just post the questions, without Survey Monkey’s guardianship, on the website.

When asked about non-residents being able to respond to a survey that can help the town make policy decisions that won’t affect them personally, Kessler paused and said “That’s a good question … but the survey says it’s for town residents. That’s who we are targeting.”

Kessler said the E-Board hopes to receive at least 400 responses in order to make it statistically significant. The board plans to run the survey through August.

Published in The Sopris Sun on June 23, 2016.

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