Civic duties are a shared responsibility predicated on the ability of everyone to participate equally. Over time unfortunately, the construct of the democratic process has become exclusionary. Time, for many people, is intrinsically tied to income. The ability to attend a public meeting during the day or take the time to participate in community activities without having to worry about childcare is a luxury.
The risks are slightly more manageable for residents in communities with homeowners associations (HOA). HOA’s safeguard property value and neighborhood aesthetics through the management of community interests. For residents living in cities, especially those like Houston without zoning, the responsibility to proactively secure the future they desire is theirs alone.
Having a voice isn’t enough without the time or platform to share it. Whether it’s protesting variances that will negatively impact property taxes, voicing the need for amenities like parks and stop signs,or meeting with developers to discuss community impacts, it all takes time. Many people rely on their elected officials to exercise good will on their behalf, but it is the individuals with the time to command officials’ attention that most often get addressed. There’s also the inherent barrier of understanding how to navigate the public system and hold elected officials accountable.
Protecting community interests and personal investments should not be a luxury. Appeal to public agencies to prioritize workforce involvement by offering after-hour and weekend hearing options. Work with neighbors to collectively communicate through a civic association or super neighborhood organization. Either way, finding a way to voice your concerns and desires is a step towards activating the power of community for the protection of property.