During the June 2 Quality of Life Plan Summit, part of a series of public meetings Austin Coming Together has held to gather community input on an Austin Quality of Life Plan, one theme kept cropping up again and again. 

Austin’s crime and violence are not only hurting the community’s reputation – and with it, the ability to attract investment and resources – but it was overshadowing the many positive things the community offers. 

The Quality of Life Plan’s Community Narrative Task Force set out to confront this reality by creating the #wethepeopleofaustin campaign, scheduled to run from June 1 through Aug. 31. As part of the campaign, the task force wants Facebook and Instagram users to post photos of Austin residents, along with descriptions of those people’s passions and life goals. 

Currently, ACT representatives said, participation is low, but they’re hoping an incentive changes this. The post with the largest combined number of likes, shares and comments will win first place, which is good for a $500 certificate. The price for second and third places is $300 and $200, respectively. Winners will be announced on Sept. 7.

The contest is open to anyone with a Facebook or Instagram account, but whoever they photograph must live somewhere in the Austin community area, including Galewood. 

The post description must have the person’s first name, how long they lived in Austin and what their “passion or goal in life” is. Contestants are encouraged to feature someone who is “passionate and unique.” The post must also be public and have the #wethepeopleofaustin hashtag included somewhere in the description. The posts can’t contain any profane language or imagery.

For over a year, ACT has been working on the Austin Quality of Life Plan, which seeks to set a blueprint for community improvements. As part of the process, several volunteer task forces were set up to not only address the different aspects of the plan, but to see what could be done now to achieve the plan’s goals. 

During the June 2 summit, Vanessa Stokes, ACT’s project coordinator and chair of the Community Narrative Task Force, said that the story that gets told about Austin is important. 

“It has come up in all working groups,” she said. “How we see our community and how our community is seen is so important. So over the last 16 months, we really sat down and thought about what [the narrative] is. There are so many rich stories of Austin residents, [but] we don’t hear about this. What about all these great things that are going on?”

Stokes said that there were many things Austin should be proud of even if they aren’t being used to their full potential.

“We have so many beautiful assets,” she said. “We have our parks, we have Austin Town Hall, but they’re underutilized. We really need to start using our assets in the community.”

CONTACT: igorst3@hotmail.com 

Igor Studenkov is a winner of multiple Illinois Press Association awards for local government and business reporting. He has been contributing to Austin Weekly News since 2015. His work has also appeared...