SUNY Potsdam surveys Tupper Lakers

TUPPER LAKE — A survey mailed to 500 households in this village is collecting data on jobs, village life and civic engagement.

It comes from SUNY Potsdam students and aims to answer public opinion questions in an area underserved by surveys.

The questionnaire was developed by students of Potsdam political science professor Robert Hinkley and is funded by a donor fund for service learning projects. The goal of the survey is to inform community development projects, identify obstacles to civic engagement and gather data on quality of life in North Country villages.

“There isn’t much good polling data and other information about communities being collected in ways that would allow you to really examine areas of common concern in villages like Potsdam, or Malone, or Massena or Tupper Lake,” Hinkley said. “So we thought we could fill that void.”

While past surveys have been distributed from Watertown to Potsdam to Malone, this is the first questionnaire distributed in an Adirondack Park village.

Hinkley said he hopes as many people respond to the 21-question survey as possible, as the more responses he receives, the more accurate his results will be. He said the minimum number of respondents he fells comfortable working with is 150.

The questionnaire was developed by political science students from methods, survey research, and state and local government courses, many of whom come from outside of the area and spent time learning about life in Tupper Lake. Though some questions touch on subjects of government efficiency, specifically in village government, Hinkley said it is not meant to be shaping opinions.

“We don’t have any particular agenda or any particular policy that we’re looking to promote, but simply to provide information that we think is useful so local leaders and citizens can make informed decisions about their future,” Hinkley said.

The survey development occurred around the same time as Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s push for service consolidation and village dissolution in the state, so several of the questions revolve around village life and public opinion on these processes. Hinkley said this push by Cuomo was well-intentioned, but without local data it is hard to make informed decisions.

The first survey in Potsdam took place before the village dissolution referendum in the fall of 2011, which was rejected in a 687-to-334 vote.

“I would argue in part that village dissolution referendums have often been voted down because the way that Albany has designed the process simply doesn’t fit with the reality on the ground,” Hinkley said. “A lot of this effort is being wasted because of a lack of good information.”

Hinkley said Potsdam students will be involved in the collection of completed surveys and the production of the results, which will be given to local leaders and residents. He also said he would share the results with the Enterprise when they are finished sometime in May.

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