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Saturday, July 13, 2024 at 4:02 AM

Get involved or don't complain

GUEST COLUMN | Richard Stone

Editor’s note: This column represents the personal view of the writer and not the Taylor Press.

Don’t be one of those people who gripe only after all the work is done.

This opinion piece began life in response to a recent social-media post. But the genesis was in March and April, during the run-up to the most recent Taylor elections.

That May election turned out to be a referendum on the Envision Taylor Comprehensive Plan, with bike lanes and infill development front and center.

Throughout the campaign, misinformation about the comp plan spread across local Facebook pages, and into some campaign literature. Various factions used the opportunity to deliberately misrepresent it.

Among the many misrepresentations was one that concerned the process: The city conducted the workshops at inconvenient times and did a poor job of marketing, according to the claims. As a result, too few people participated.

As one who invested months in the project, I found that more than a little insulting.

While I agree that more people could have taken part, one should remember that voter turnout for municipal elections is also pretty poor. Perhaps there’s a correlation.

This attitude shows a stunning lack of respect for the hard work that residents put in to write a plan that was “Taylor Made” and would protect the town’s cultural and historic nature.

That was our charge, and we took it seriously.

Meetings were held over Zoom and in person; in the afternoon, early evening and weekends, beginning as soon as the COVID-19 virus let up a bit and for the following 18 months or so. It’s true that most had 100, or fewer, people in attendance but more than one or two were standing room only.

The schedules were posted in the paper, the city newsletter, on Taylor’s website and on all city social media. The meetings were streamed live.

I understand the sessions were inconvenient for many. I can take the time to attend meetings like this. I’m semiretired, and given that I’ve professionally followed municipal government for decades, I was motivated.

But, if you didn’t know about the meetings, it’s because you weren’t paying attention.

Now, I think it’s great additional people have become engaged. The more voices at the table, the more likely a greater number will buy into the results. I hope they stay engaged, but I wonder and here’s why: The same 150200 residents show up to virtually every civic function I’ve attended over the last 10 years.

It’s those folks who continually participate in the work of the Greater Taylor Foundation, or who took the time to write the comp plan.

They don’t wait around. They get things done.

Should any effort to rewrite the comprehensive plan be in the works, I can’t help but wonder how many of these newly engaged people will show up, meeting after meeting, for 12-18 months, to help modify it in a way that continues to protect the culture and history of Taylor but also answers the fears and perceptions of a loud group of suspicious keyboard commandos.

City planners set their course based on the voices of the people who participate, not the ones who gripe — after the fact! — on social media. Get involved early and show up when and where it matters.

If you can’t do that, please show a little respect and accept the resulting work was done with your neighbors’ best intentions.

Stone is a former publisher of the Taylor Press (and other Central Texas newspapers), and wrote under the “Ragged Edge” banner for nearly four decades. His more recent work is at WilCoBlues.com.


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