We are amazed that the Boca Raton City Council continues to move forward with plans for a chain restaurant on the Wildflower site, while ignoring the sentiment of the citizens. Several citizen surveys have been presented to City Council regarding usage of the site and the results favor a park on the site. One survey conducted by the City in 2011 was reported by the City Staff to favor a restaurant over a park; however, due diligence on the details of that survey suggest that the City Staff’s reported results misrepresent the responses of the citizens. It is important to understand and correct this problem as the reported results of this survey were used to justify the decision to put a chain restaurant on the site.
To get citizen input to the Wildflower site usage decision, the City conducted an electronic survey via the City website. Citizen comments were received from late June until late October, 2011. Over 150 comments were received; however about half of the comments were not responsive to the intent of the survey. The following survey results were presented by George Brown, Deputy City Manager, at a Wildflower site workshop held on October 18, 2011.
We performed due diligence on the City’s survey results by scoring the original citizen responses. 151 citizen responses were obtained from a public records request to the City in May, 2015. The details of how the City Staff scored the responses were obtained with a second public record request in September, 2015. The results of this request were a detailed log of every citizen response that was scored by the City Staff and the category to which every response was assigned. As a quality control check an independent scoring was also performed by Dr. Timothy Lenz, a professor in Florida Atlantic University’s Political Science Department. The results of these scorings as well as the City Staff’s scoring of the exact same survey responses are in the table below. Again, the three survey scores in the following table all operated with the same input data.
These tables highlight major problems with how the City Staff scored the survey responses. The first problem is that the City Staff used a very narrow definition of a park, i.e., Passive Recreation and a very broad definition of a restaurant, i.e., Restaurant/Active Destination. This allowed the City Staff’s presentation to give the appearance of high citizen demand for a restaurant. The scoring reported in lines 2 and 3 in the above table considered the intent of the citizen responses regarding a park or a restaurant. The next problem is the difference between line 1 and lines 2 and 3 in the total number of responses scored. An analysis of the citizen responses not scored by the City Staff shows that those responses that were not counted heavily favored a park.
City Survey Problem #1 – Inappropriate Filtering of Survey Responses
By using Passive Recreation as a filtering criterion the City Staff significantly limited the number of citizen responses that they scored as favoring a park. On the other hand, by using Restaurant/Active Destination as a filtering criterion the City Staff was able to easily score the majority of responses as favoring a restaurant. For example, following is an actual response from two citizens that the City Staff scored in the Restaurant/Active Destination category.
QUESTIONS/COMMENTS: My husband and I are both longtime residents of Boca Raton and we both agree we would love to see a waterfront park with access to restrooms, a stage, concession area where the residents could use or reserve. We have used the island in Deerfield for birthday parties and it would be incredible to have a similar park for the City of Boca. (Great place for teens to have their battle of the bands!!) I was hoping Boca could continue to be a city within a park!
Clearly the intent of these citizens’ response is for the Wildflower site to be developed as a park; however, the City Staff scored the response in the Restaurant/Active Destination category. The number of responses scored in this category by the City Staff gave the appearance of a relatively large number of citizens favoring a restaurant when citizens really favored a park.
City Survey Problem #2 – Not Counting a Large Number of Citizen Responses
In the above table the City Staff only counted 61 responses; whereas the other two scorers counted 78 and 83. This means that the City Staff didn’t score 17 citizen responses relative to one scorer and 22 relative to the other. On a percentage basis this means that the City Staff ignored 28% or 36% of citizen responses that the other scorers felt were valid. Almost all of the responses not counted by the City Staff favored a park on the Wildflower site. Following, for example, is a citizen survey response that was received on September 23, 2011.
QUESTIONS/COMMENTS: I would like to see a passive park with places to picnic and watch the boats go by; maybe some pretty gardens and if room maybe a dock for a water taxi accommodating the local restaurants like in Ft Lauderdale.
This citizen’s survey response, as well as 16 similar responses, was not included by the City Staff in their survey scoring and presentation to the City Council.
Summary and Recommendations
The City of Boca Raton Wildflower site usage citizen survey results presented by the City Staff misrepresent the facts. They make it appear that citizens favor a restaurant when actual survey results favor a park on the Wildflower site. This problem was most recently communicated to each City Council member on September 10, 2015 with a recommendation to perform due diligence on the City Staff’s analysis of the survey. As of this writing nothing has changed and the plans for the chain restaurant for the Wildflower site are moving forward. The City Council members need to address the irregularities in the City Staff’s reporting of the survey results and respond to the citizens’ request for a public park on the Wildflower site.
If you agree with this conclusion, please contact your City Council
Mayor Susan Haynie – firstname.lastname@example.org
Deputy Mayor Robert Weinroth – email@example.com
Councilman Mike Mullaugh – firstname.lastname@example.org
CRA Chair,Councilman Scott Singer – email@example.com
Jeremy Rodgers – firstname.lastname@example.org