Folknography results presented to Irontonians

Published 12:00 am Friday, June 4, 2004

A research study focusing on the people, conducted by the people, was presented to the people of Ironton Thursday.

Dr. Dave Lucas and 16 Ohio University Southern students hosted a public forum to outline the results of their week-long folknography project. The study measured residents’ views on a variety of topics, ranging from city services to elected leaders.

As reported earlier this week, the overall consensus was that Irontonians feel safe living in the city but are not happy with the services or their elected leaders. Though Lucas calls the study a very solid gauge of the public's views, he admitted that some of the numbers may be skewed because of the city's ongoing financial troubles and labor issues.

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Folknography is a qualitative and quantitative research method developed by Lucas and Dr. Charles Jarrett that documents attitudes and perceptions of communities and groups, but also generates statistical data.

"The thing I think is astounding is that people said, 'I know we have a problem in Ironton and we are ready to fork over more money,'" Lucas said.

The audience consisted of Mayor John Elam, city councilmen Jim Tordiff, Chuck O'Leary, Jesse Roberts, Bill Nenni and Brent Pyles, a half dozen union members and a few citizens who were interested in what the study had to say.

"It is a very honest and up front study," Lucas said. "I have no agenda. I don't live in Ironton. It is designed to get the voice of Ironton."

Lucas made several inferences based on the study and drew a number of themes from the results including that citizens understand the fiscal crisis and are willing to do something, that citizens want leaders to be more pro-active in recruiting jobs and that now is the time to put away personal agendas and take advantage of the rich resources of the area.

The study included 249 surveys, 107 interviews and a dozen focus groups conducted throughout the city that used random subjects who are Ironton residents. Nearly 60 percent of the respondents were female. Overall, 40 percent of people polled were adults, 35 percent youth above the age of 15 and 25 percent senior citizens.

When asked if they were satisfied with the quality of living, 44 percent agreed or strongly agreed. On the other hand, 56 percent disagreed or disagreed strongly.

A total of 68 percent of the people surveyed are willing to pay more in some for or another but do not want it to be permanent, according to the study.

When asked to choose their preferred source of additional revenue, 30 percent chose a municipal fee, 22 percent chose a parking sticker, 15 percent were willing to pay a sanitation increase. Only nine percent supported payroll tax increases, 9 percent supported revoking the reciprocity, 8 percent wanted the city to look at other ideas and 7 percent said they would be willing to pay more sales tax.

Resident Cornelia Lutz agreed that the study seemed to capture the spirit of what its residents are feeling right now.

"I think it is probably right, as far as the public. People are very fond of this town," she said. "I don't understand why they (council) won't go for the $10 fee. It seems so obvious to me."

A total of 73 percent of people polled said they were not satisfied with city services.

When it came to ranking their most important city services, 27 percent of the people marked police, 27 percent chose water, 24 percent chose fire, 13 percent picked streets and only 9 percent marked sanitation.

Sixty-nine percent of the people interviewed said they were not satisfied with the elected officials.

A total of 83 percent of the people polled supported renovation or revitalization of downtown and 91 percent said they would support a hospital in Ironton. This stat prompted one audience member asked, "Why didn't those people support the hospital when it was there?"

Because several researchers had said publicly last week that they were left feeling as if council didn’t put much stock in the results, Councilman Roberts took the opportunity Thursday to set the record straight from his perspective.

"I appreciate very much the students' work and input. Whether I may agree with it or not, we wanted you to do this," Councilman Roberts said. "I apologize to you and your students for anyone who may have cast aspersions on it. ŠWhether we like it or not, we have to listen to it."

The complete narratives of the interviews should be ready within the next two weeks, Lucas said.