I, for one, can attest the fact that our community has many needs.  The opinions around the community are various and recently, with the help of the United Way, a community needs assessment was conducted in an attempt to gain insight into what the citizens of the county feel are the greatest needs. 

The survey was placed online and passed out to multiple agencies, organizations, and public systems.  The detailed results of the survey can be found at http://www.unitedwaybc.com/files/CNA_Final_Report_08_09_10_1PM.pdf . 

I simply wanted to highlight some interesting revelations concerning the survey. 

#1-  The total responses submitted were 889.  Once again, a small verbal minority is present to speak for the 100,000 citizens of the county; however, this isn’t to say the sample of respondents wasn’t representative.  Some of the first people to complete the survey were your locally elected officials who should, in theory, represent the populous from which they were elected.  Regardless, despite support of major churches and agencies countywide, only 889 people voiced their opinions on community needs. 

#2- Almost 40% of the respondents were working in education.  Since the survey was passed out through the school systems, teachers were very likely to respond.  This is a proportionately high number from this occupation field.  According to US Census data, only about 6.9% of the working population works in education.  The end result is a survey that is heavily influenced by government, education-based employees.  This is further reinforced by the 64.5% of respondents who report to have college degrees, a ratio that in the general population is only 11.9%. 

#3- The majority of respondents was middle aged and possessed higher incomes than the general populous.  One can infer then that the responses were people’s perceptions of public need and/or subjective reflections of what is needed. 

#4- 46%+ of people noted they didn’t know what services existed and who to contact.  This tells our community leaders that we need to do a better job of communicating what is out there for citizens.  Assuming this survey was heavily influenced by those who work for government (i.e. education), that might indicate a BIG communication breakdown. 

#5- The top needs are mostly health and healthcare related.  Maybe it was the attention that healthcare has had in public debate or maybe the rising cost of care is overwhelming but regardless, perception is reality.  People feel, at best, distracted by their health needs.  

In sum, though this survey has its limitations, it is still information that we didn’t have before.  It still provides insight into what certain people are thinking and feeling.  Most importantly, it has laid the ground work for future surveys and such which might yield even more valuable data in the years to come. 

As for me, as a commissioner, I always find information useful.  I would rather be sifting through too much communication and data than to not have enough.  It is tedious but knowledge is a great platform to construct ideas from.


UPDATE:  After posting this, a friend notified me that he found it somewhat critical of the assessment.  The purpose of this website is to communicate clearly and I never want my posts to be misunderstood.  So allow me to be more direct.

The men and women who designed, implemented, and participated in this study are to be commended.  No one ever acknowledged that it would be an easy task.  I know many of those who responsible for its success and they are the most capable men I know.  I count this as a success on their part.  As I noted before, I find the information valuable and I hope it generates more in depth discussion in the coming year.

That being said, I still want to acknowledge the lack of participation in the survey, especially by certain demographics.  The lack of participation and attention to our community is a growing problem.  We see that lack not only in survey participation but in the elections themselves.  I want to encourage more people to be engaged in our community and I only feel that can be done if we willingly address our deficits in participation.  That “small vocal minority” cannot continue to do all of the work.  We need YOU!

Lastly, point #4 was the most enlightening to me.  It said that as a commissioner, I need to find ways to better communicate with the public.  This site is one of them and that is why I posted the direct link to the survey results.  I would hope folks might take the time to review it in its entirety.  The responsibility of advertising and communicating our services is joint.  I am currently asking myself what can the county do better.  It is a question I look forward to asking my peers in the weeks to come.

What an exhausting year!  It was last October that I started my campaign for commission.  Many had started prior to the date and some a bit later.  So for months we have seen a consistent influx of political signs, news ads, and door-knockers.

Many races were hotly contested at the local level and supporters campaigned with vigor.  In the end, a few candidates made it through to gain seats and positions county wide.  I congratulate those who won and commend those who lost for all the hard work and passion.

On September 1st, a new government will take the reins in Bradley County.  The new government consists of many from the previous government and welcomes some new faces, mine included.  For months, these men and women have been Republicans and Democrats but on September 1st, we must become servants.

I am certain that those returning and joining our local ranks will remove party hats and get to work, much like intend to do.  In 4 years, we will all grab our party hats and many will seek nominations once again.  However, in the meantime, we must realize that the race is over and the work has begun.  I honestly believe that if each official-elect serves with the same passion and drive with which they campaigned, our community can be strong for the next few years.

So, I will be the first to lead the way.  In my campaign, I sought to communicate with the good folks of my community.  My primary objective was to communicate in as many ways with as many people as possible.  I wanted to make understanding our government easy to come by.  To communicate, I sought venues for interaction with people, created an online community for discussion, and continuously shared any and all information openly with whoever cared to listen.  In the spirit of continuing these methods, I have created similar tools for the people of Bradley County to communicate and understand. 

First, in the spirit of pursuing venues for interaction with folks, I am always available to attend or present at community meetings.  I am a phone call (472-6068) or email (alowe@bradleymatters.com) away.  In addition, I have also begun the creation of a community advisory council in the 4th district.  I have invited many PTO, PTA, homeowners association, and community presidents to join me once a quarter to communicate needs of the district.  These folks hear more than I could ever on my own. 

Second, much like the online community from my campaign, we have launched this site, www.bradleymatters.com.  It will serve as a means to share some of the more pressing developments in our area as well as provide you with constant insight into what I, as a commissioner, am seeing and thinking.  There are no secrets.  Tell your friends and colleagues to visit the site and register for the email updates.  Quick and easy.

Lastly, in the near future, I plan to provide live audio streaming of our Bradley County commission meetings on www.bradleymatters.com.  It may take some time to get it right but my intention is to make it easier for you to listen in.

I look forward to serving you in the next 4 years and I hope these tools serve you well!