Thursday, February 23, 2006

Strange Effects

When a city is planning a public hearing about the status of a property, Texas requires notification for every property owner within 200 feet. A city can add to that measure, if so desired. Waxahachie, for instance, also notifies the family living in the house as well as the property owner, but does not extend the distance. Often, 200 feet incorporates all the interested parties, and often it does not.

Before a zoning meeting this week, I wrote a very short preview outlining the scheduled public hearings. During one, a slightly larger amount of fairly loquacious citizens chose to speak for a rather long time. What they had in common was living in the neighborhood, but outside the 200 feet. Silently bemoaning their chattering, I realized I had done this to myself. Writing the preview informed a new subset of the population and increased the odds that someone — or several people — would have a problem with the project.

No one brought any issue the commissioned hadn’t already considered, and so our only investment was time. Had one of these protesters brought important information to the table, though, it could have theoretically swayed the vote. This time, though, it did not.

Without going door to door and explaining the zoning request to every homeowner, it is impossible to find the one with that information. The state deems 200 feet as an appropriate radius to find that person. Waxahachie adds a layer with their homeowner clause. We add a layer with the newspaper. Each layer increased the traffic, but not necessarily the effectiveness, in this case.

But newspapers are more about the space between stories than the actual stories, and so our cumulative coverage is more important than single article. Still, my fairly momentary decision directly added about a hour to my work day. And I kept about fifteen people from getting home on time.

With great power comes great responsibility.

1 comment:

Jonathan Blundell said...

You always have to get worried when people get up at meetings and mention your specific article for the reason they are there.