BY MAIRE O’NEILL
A recent survey of 600 people in Los Alamos County indicates that residents enjoy a high quality of life and feel safe in their community. An overview of the survey says at least 8 in 10 respondents gave excellent or good ratings to the overall quality of life in the County and the County as a place to live. About 80 percent indicated that they would recommend living in the County to others and that they plan to stay in the County for the next five years. The report says these numbers are on par with ratings given in other communities across the nation.
Issues addressed in the survey include:
Economy • Mobility • Community Design • Utilities • Safety • Natural Environment • Parks and Recreation • Health and Wellness • Education, Arts and Culture • Inclusivity and Engagement
The overview says safety is a contributing factor to the community’s livability and that County residents reported strong feelings of safety and high evaluations of safety-related services.
“Nearly all residents gave positive evaluations of their overall feeling of safety, and similar percentages reported feeling very or somewhat safe in the County’s downtown/commercial area during the day as well as from property or violent crime; each of these ratings were higher than the national comparisons,” the overview states. “Not surprisingly, at least percent of respondents gave excellent or good marks to police services, crime prevention, ambulance or emergency medical services, fire services and fire prevention and education. Each of these aforementioned services were rated similar to the national averages with the exception of crime prevention, which was higher.”
Residents expressed concern about the cost of living in the County and the impacts of COVID-19 on their economic future with 7 in 10 respondents rating the County’s overall health positively. As a place to work, the County rated higher than the national comparison and employment opportunities were rated positively by one-third of respondents.
Not surprisingly, fewer than 20 percent of those surveyed rated the cost of living and housing affordability positively and only 13 percent felt the economy will have a positive impact on their income
“Residents were very supportive of the local government changing policies and ordinances to help support restaurants and retailers during the pandemic. Use of vacant lots for outdoor dining, creating parklets or small areas on street for retails, changing zoning requirements for food trucks, and selling liquor on to-go orders was supported by at least three-fourths of survey respondents. More than two-thirds of the residents surveyed supported the use of public health measures such as mandatory temperature checks and face masks enforcement to help control the spread of the virus and keep the economy open,” the overview states.
It was noted that residents appreciate their neighborhoods and public places where they spend time, but feel the community is lacking areas of economic development and growth. Fewer than half gave positive ratings to economic development, shopping opportunities and the quality and variety of business and service establishments in Los Alamos County. Only 3 in 10 or fewer gave positive ratings to well-planned residential and commercial growth and the overall quality of new development.
“The COVID-19 pandemic is having the strongest impacts on residents’ mental health. While COVID-19 is a physical health risk, its impacts are also felt in the areas of emotional and economic health of households across the country. When asked about their household’s biggest COVID-19 related problems, residents expressed the largest amount of concern over a variety of emotional health issues. Not knowing when pandemic will end, isolation, anxiety and boredom were the most common problems reported in the survey,” the overview states. “Physical health and economic factors affected a significantly smaller proportion of households at the time the surveys were completed.”
Some 95 percent of respondents rated the overall quality of the natural environment as excellent or good in the County which is above the national benchmark. Water resources, air quality and preservation of natural areas were also rated positively by more than 80 percent of respondents.
What the overview does not address, is the low positivity of ratings on the County governance area of the survey where the percentage of excellent or good statistics in many places is under 50 percent, including:
- Overall confidence in Los Alamos County government – 48 percent
- The overall direction that Los Alamos County is taking – 48 percent
- Generally acting in the interest of the community – 49 percent
- Being honest – 49 percent
- Being open and transparent to the public – 45 percent
- Informing residents about issues facing the community – 50 percent
- The job Los Alamos County Government does at welcoming resident involvement – 50 percent
While the overall health and welfare of the County earned a 76 percent positive rating, the following areas earned 50 percent or under:
- Availability of quality healthcare – 50 percent
- Availability of preventative health services – 41 percent
- Availability of affordable quality mental health care – 49 percent
Other notable low percentages were:
- Availability of affordable quality child care/preschool – 30 percent
- Contacted elected officials to express opinion – 18 percent
- Attended public meeting – 22 percent
- Watched public meeting online or on television – 26 percent
- Campaigned or advocated for an issue cause or candidate – 18
The report can be downloaded from the County’s website at: https://www.losalamosnm.us/government/open_gov