City of Madison

Former City of Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz

Former Mayor Dave Cieslewicz's Blog

Taking the Measure of a City

January 13, 2010 2:37 PM

The results of the second annual Madison Resident Satisfaction Survey are in. Ninety-three percent of respondents said that overall quality of life here is good or better and 88% stated that the overall quality of services they receive from the City is also good or better. Both numbers are slightly improved from last year.

For the entire report visit:

In terms of specific services, garbage and recycling pickup got the highest ratings with almost nine in ten respondents saying they were satisfied or better with that service. That's important because it's a service that every one of our households uses and wants. It's a very positive sign that the one service that gets to every household six times a month is also the one that gets the highest ratings. Police and fire services also rated very highly, although of course those are services we all hope to use less of.

The two areas we need to work on most according to our residents are the conditions of our lakes and our streets. The question on the lakes is different from the others in that the City of Madison plays only a partial role in their care. Actually, most of the runoff that impacts water quality happens in the rural areas north of the Yahara Chain, not in the city. But we felt that in a city that defines itself so much by its lakes, it would be a mistake not to ask the question. Then we need to track what we hope will be our progress in working in partnership with other Dane County communities in addressing the problem.

The other area we know we need to improve on is street conditions. Two years ago I launched a five-year program to rebuild streets. The goal is to get the miles of substandard arterial streets from 26% in 2008 to below 10%. Already this year we've seen progress with major projects such as University Avenue bringing that number down to 19%. Big projects in the offing like the completion of University Avenue to Middleton and the reconstruction of Northport Drive, which is a State of Wisconsin project, will get us significantly further toward our goal.

The annual survey is just one of four quantitative management tools that we've launched in recent years. The others are Report-A-Problem, which gives us a monthly read-out on what service issues are on the minds of our residents (, Madison Measures, which links budget initiatives to specific measures of on-the-ground service delivery (, and Neighborhood Indicators, which track the health of our neighborhoods (

There's a saying that goes, "you can't manage what you can't measure." I can't say I buy that entirely. There are important intangibles. But measuring things can point us in the right direction and keep us accountable to our residents.


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