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City Council Members Discuss Residential Survey Results On Pandemic Response and Policing

Cambridge City Council met publicly in Cambridge City Hall on Monday nights before the Covid-19 pandemic.
Cambridge City Council met publicly in Cambridge City Hall on Monday nights before the Covid-19 pandemic. By Santiago A. Saldivar
By Ryan S. Kim and David R. Shaw, Crimson Staff Writers

Cambridge City Council members discussed the findings of a recent residential survey on the city’s pandemic response and police department during a “roundtable” Zoom meeting on Monday.

The City of Cambridge Resident Telephone Survey, conducted by Polity Research Consulting, was conducted in September 2020 and published the following month. Ernest Paicopolos, the founder of Polity Research Consulting, and City Manager Louis A. DePasquale presented the survey’s findings.

Thirty-two of the 42 questions on the survey returned record-high levels of satisfaction with city services.

“I really believe these results reflect our highly capable and extremely dedicated workforce and the focus they have placed on the initiatives and priorities of the city council,” DePasquale said. “I want to thank the city staff for their hard work, especially during this pandemic.”

Despite the overall strong results, residents expressed decreasing satisfaction with certain city services, including policing and public education.

The percentage of Cambridge residents giving an “excellent” or “good” rating for police department services fell to 63 percent, an 18 percentage point drop from an all-time high of 81 percent in 2018.

Paicopolos noted that last summer’s national demonstrations against racial injustice and police brutality “certainly” contributed to the decline, which he called “a little bit troubling.”

Police Commissioner Branville G. Bard, Jr. said that, while this drop might be “spurious,” the city should closely analyze the results.

“It certainly warrants a deeper dive in to ensure that we have a firm understanding of what those numbers actually are,” Bard said.

The number of “excellent” and “good” ratings for public schools likewise fell from 78 percent to 63 percent. Paicopolos again said the drop is “troubling” and pointed to the challenges of virtual learning as a reason for the decline.

Satisfaction with senior services has steadily declined since the poll’s 2014 high of 62 percent. In 2020, just 38 percent of respondents rated the quality of senior services as being either “excellent” or “good.”

Despite the Covid-19 pandemic, the city observed a 20-year high in overall satisfaction with public services. 81 percent of respondents described Cambridge’s coronavirus response as either “good” or “excellent.”

Sixty-six percent of respondents gave the city government an “excellent” or “good” rating.

During the meeting, Cambridge City Councilor Quinton Y. Zondervan noted the disparity in satisfaction between white respondents, and Black and “multiracial” respondents. While 53 out of 281 white residents gave an “excellent/good” rating, only one out of 38 Black residents and one out of 25 multiracial residents did.

“I certainly understand the desire to celebrate the numbers, but it doesn't give us a clear picture of where we can do better,” Zondervan said.

— Staff writer Ryan S. Kim can be reached at ryan.kim@thecrimson.com.

— Staff writer David R. Shaw can be reached at david.shaw@thecrimson.com. Follow him on Twitter @davidrwshaw.

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City PoliticsCambridge City CouncilCambridgeCambridge PoliceMetroCoronavirus