New Yorkers are embracing their local governments like never before. A special local government Siena Research Institute poll finds a majority of voters say local governments beat the state on everything from understanding citizens’ needs to "getting things done."
Forty-three percent of voters surveyed by Siena trust their local government most or all of the time to "do what's right," as opposed to a 28 percent level of trust for state or federal governments. And that 43 percent is the LOWEST number: it only gets better for local municipalities. Siena pollster Don Levy: "When we took a look specifically at three functions of government and asked New Yorkers 'Who do ya think is doing a better job, local or state,' - there's where the big difference really jumps out. New Yorkers feel that local government understands their needs and responds to them at a rate of 70 percent as opposed to only 20 percent preferring state government. And majorities feel as though local government is considerably better at managing their tax dollars and at getting important things done."
Those approving numbers climb still higher when New Yorkers weigh in on local services: "That's where they really say that local government is doing a good job. Almost universally, 96 percent approve and are satisfied with the job that the fire department is doing, nearly 90 percent say that emergency services are doing a great job, 78 percent say the police are doing a great job."
Outgoing Albany Police Chief Steven Krokoff's remarks earlier this week at City Hall seemed to reflect the finding: "People wave to us when we're driving in the streets now. People hug me when they see me in the street. It's not me that they’re hugging. I just happen to be the face of the department."
The high approval numbers didn't surprise Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan: "When you look at the impact that you can have in local government, it's very direct. We see people in the grocery store, we see people on the street. They are 'right there.' It is something that is immediate, and it is something that, from a resident's standpoint, when they are looking for help, we're the first line that they come to. And they expect to get an answer, and they expect to get results, and even if we aren't the entity that ultimately is gonna be able to solve their problem, they expect us to get them to that person who can help them. That's really ultimately what local government is about. And when we do it well, and it appears that New Yorkers think that we're doing it well, I think that it is probably the most effective way to deliver services to people."
When Siena asked voters whether they'd like to increase taxes for more government services, or keep spending unchanged, or would you prefer to cut services and cut taxes, a majority of respondents, 51 percent, said “leave it as it is.” Don Levy: "We're happy with the level of service we get for the tax dollars we pay. One area that New Yorkers would like to see some additional dollars, moreso coming from the $5 billion surplus than anyplace else, is in terms of both local and state infrastructure: 27 percent say use some of that money for local infrastructure, bridges, roads, and an additional 15 percent say let's increase the quality of state roads."
The New York State Association of Counties co-sponsored the survey. NYSAC's deputy director Mark Levine says the poll tells us three things. "One: New Yorkers trust their local government leaders to do the right thing for their communities. Two: We must invest the state's surplus in fixing our road and bridge system. It is in dire need of repair. And three, as state budget negotiations continues, we need to have a more honest dialog about where our property taxes go, and how reform at the state level, whether it's mandate relief or targeted local aid, we can finally actually reduce the property tax burden on New York's homeowners and businesses."