By VICKI URBANIK
A new survey suggests that when it comes the way that some important issues
are viewed, the general public doesn’t always see things in the same light as
business leaders and public officials.
The survey, a joint project of the United Way of Porter County and the Porter
County Community Foundation, found that community leaders representing
business, non-profits, education and government placed high priority on more
public transportation. Further, about two-thirds of them think that the
growth that has occurred in the past few years in Porter County has been
But the public at-large doesn’t view transportation as a pressing need.
Further, residents aren’t as supportive about the development that has
occurred, and they are more concerned than the community leaders about
On the other hand, the survey found some common ground: Substance abuse and
health care both emerged as being among the top three pressing concerns for
both the general citizenry as well as the “stakeholders” representing
business, non-profits and government.
The surveys were broken down into three categories: The general citizenry,
via 800 random phone calls; surveys among “stakeholders” representing
business, non-profits and the government; and focus groups involving
non-profits, government, youth, employers and others in the community.
The stakeholders generally gave higher marks than the citizens when asked
about Porter County’s quality of life: 50 percent of the stakeholders rated
the quality of life as “very good,” and 24 percent rated it “good.” But among
the citizens surveyed, 26 percent rated it “very good,” while 40 percent
rated it “good.”
When asked the top strength in Porter County, schools and education emerged
as the highest rated factor for both groups -- but in greatly varying
degrees. Sixty-nine percent of the stakeholders said schools was the top
strength, while only 24 percent of the citizens rated schools as the number
When asked to pick the top three most significant issues facing Porter
County, the results among the citizens surveyed were, in order: employment
(21.9%), substance abuse (20.2%), health care (17.8%), schools/education
(16.3 %), crime (14.2%), housing (13.7%), taxes (12%), roads (9.2%),
transportation (8.4%) and youth concerns (7.5%).
But among the stakeholders, the issues viewed as the most significant were:
health care and substance abuse (tied at 33.9%), transportation (30.1%),
growth (20.7%), employment (15.2%), economy (15.1%), housing (13.2%), taxes
(13.2%), schools (7.6%) and crime (5.7%).
One of the most significant differences between the surveys among the
citizens and those for the stakeholders dealt with the issue of public
transportation. Sixty percent of the stakeholders said more public
transportation was a “major concern,” while only 17 percent of the citizens
rated this issue in that manner. Instead, 34 percent of the citizens said
public transportation was “not a concern.”
In a segment of the survey that asked the respondents to rate the issues as
to their severity, underage drinking, alcohol and drug abuse, and the cost of
prescription drugs emerged as the highest rated issues for the citizens. But
among the stakeholders, the highest rated issues were availability of public
transportation, alcohol and drug abuse, and availability of adequate medical
The survey, conducted by Perspectives Consulting of Michigan, is part of a
needs assessment project underway by the United Way and the Community
Foundation. The goal of the project is to identify the top needs in Porter
County and map out recommendations for addressing them.
The initial results of the survey were unveiled at a meeting Thursday at the
Porter County Expo Center. The audience consisted largely of representatives
of non-profit agencies and social service providers. Those in attendance will
meet again on Nov. 8 to identify from the surveys the top needs facing Porter
Both the United Way of Porter County and the Porter County Community
Foundation will post the survey results in the coming days on their webpages.