There are people in every community who will never pay attention to what’s going on around them — until it’s actually going on. In that vein, we like to test that idea, to see if folks are paying attention.
The truth is that a lot of people — and this is not exclusive to our area — don’t pay attention to civic engagement or projects. The city of Kerrville has finished up an exhaustive revision to its planning and zoning documents, which are dubbed Kerrville 2050. The city proudly — and they should — reports that more than 400 people participated in the process of identifying the needs of this community over the next 30 years.
It was collaborative, comprehensive and far reaching. It’s a big deal.
But we wanted to see how many people are aware of the plan, what their feelings are about it and if they are supportive?
We turned to our internal polling tool, and we found that 21% of our respondents claimed to have never heard of it. Now, this is a small sample size, but we weren’t necessarily surprised by this finding.
The frustrating question for all of us — but particularly a newspaper — is how do we get people to read and understand important community initiatives that will have a direct impact on the quality of everyone’s daily lives?
It’s not an easy question to answer, but it’s also compounded by knee-jerk reactions. People may not understand what’s happening, and yet they still have opinions on it.
This newspaper has written exhaustively about the 2050 plan, and will continue to for years. Our challenge is to find interesting, easy to understand ways to educate our community and incline them to care. But Kerrville 2050 isn’t the only of such topics.
We also witnessed a similar issue with a question around the Kerrville Urban Trails System, which this Editorial Board has endorsed. When we asked the community about their opinions on the KUTS plan, it revealed there are people who don’t seem to understand the idea of categorical or earmarked spending. Responses in opposition to the project complained about how the city is spending and that it should use its money for road repairs, but KUTS doesn’t involve city money.
Here are the facts about KUTS:
• It’s a grassroots, volunteer-driven effort.
• It’s not publicly funded, at least up to now.
• So far, it’s completely privately-funded with donations and grants.
The idea is to make Kerrville more walkable and to better connect the downtown area to the Guadalupe River Trail system. This isn’t a matter of prioritizing beautification over road improvement or any other city service. It’s about a group of residents casting a vision to make our city a better place and rallying together with their own time and energy to bring it to fruition.
Who should complain about that?
While 84% of our respondents in a Facebook poll said they support the idea, some of the comments we received via social media were often baffling.
“What they need to do if fix Francisco Lemos street between Main and Schreiner. That road is as bad as Guadalupe street used to be.”
“Nice idea but who is paying for it? It will directly benefit a specific group more than the city in general.”
Those comments demonstrate a clear lack of understanding of the efforts behind this project and are reflective of the kinds of knee-jerk reactions that are all too common on social media. Frustrating? Certainly.
Solution? We still need to work harder to educate and report on the news, but there are some we’re never going to reach.