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Travis County bush

County reviews community survey results ahead of investment decisions

Friday, December 16, 2022 by Seth Smalley

A Travis County community survey was conducted early this year to assist the county in its decision-making on economic developments, strategic planning and where to invest local fiscal recovery funds.

On Tuesday, county commissioners received the second briefing on survey responses from the 2022 community survey. The 2,477-respondent survey results were first presented to commissioners in June, but staff at the time felt it was necessary to revisit some of the data before presenting all of the results.

Source: Travis County

“We want to highlight some of the comments we received from county residents, themes from specific policy areas, and disaggregated data on who and where those comments came from,” said Sergio Plaza, the planning manager for community engagement with Economic and Strategic Planning. “We felt it was important to revisit some of the information prior to presenting themes from the comments.”

Themes of the comments included public safety, law enforcement and crime rate, restoring APD funding, and funding first responders like EMS and firefighters. The highest areas of concern, according to the survey, were dependable water sources, access to food, jobs with a living wage, job training, access to the internet and traffic.

“Higher percentages of Hispanic, African American and Native American survey participants rated access to food as their top priority,” Plaza said.

African American and LGBTQ+ communities rated criminal justice reform as a top priority, while those with disabilities rated health care services as a top priority.

Source: Travis County

ZIP codes west of Interstate 35 rated action on climate change, parks and open spaces as top priorities, while ZIP codes east of I-35 rated jobs with living wages and job training as top priorities.

Most of the comments were made by people living west of I-35, between the ages of 26 and 59, who identified as white and non-Hispanic.

Ten policy areas made up half of all commenter concerns: Housing affordability, taxes, public safety, homelessness, criminal justice reform, the trauma recovery center, education, traffic, economic development and public transportation.

“Of the 784 commenters, 79 comments were received about housing affordability,” Plaza said. “Many commenters expressed the need to address rising costs for renters in the county, such as restrictions on short-term rentals and building more dense housing.”

Forty-three commenters wrote in about homelessness.

“This one had some nuance, as many commenters either commented about enforcing the reinstated camping ban, or expanding resources for people experiencing homelessness,” Plaza said. “A few commenters made the link between homelessness and housing affordability.”

Most comments about homelessness were made by people between 50 and 60, who lived west of I-35, and identified as white non-Hispanic, according to Plaza.

“I think this is a great exercise. Before we use too much of it to determine LFRF funding, the majority of the respondents were west of 35, mostly Anglo,” County Judge Andy Brown said. “So while there are a lot of good lessons learned for how to do future outreach, I wouldn’t characterize it as a scientific analysis of the opinions of the people of Travis County.”

Editor’s Note: Andy Brown is on the board of the Capital of Texas Media Foundation, the parent nonprofit of the Austin Monitor.

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