There are a few things I’ve noticed living here and getting involved. One of those things is how passionate people seem to act on various topics.
These topics include (but are not limited to):
•Demanding a Target
•Ridiculing additional fast food establishments
•Voicing opinions about additional mattress stores
•Demanding better eating establishments
•Poking fun at the local government operating like they’re in the 1800s
•Ridiculing budgets and placing blame on excessive spending
•Demanding a dog park
•Demanding traffic improvements
•Demanding reform to the outdated recreational vehicle ordinance
•Whether to allow or disallow medical marijuana dispensaries in city limits
• Whether or not to incorporate a city manager and update the charter
• Whether or not we have a homeless problem
Monday the council held a (very well advertised) workshop to discuss three of these items: the budget, marijuana dispensaries, and the RV ordinance.
The council even changed the venue of the meeting to Warriors Hall in anticipation of having a massive crowd because of the magnitude of the topics on the agenda. Warriors Hall has a capacity of hosting 200 people. About 18 showed up.
The meeting was published on the city calendar, notifications were sent out via email if you signed up for them (also available on the website), updates and reminders were posted to the city’s Facebook page, etc.
Simply put, if you’re genuinely interested in what the city and your elected officials are doing, you would know about this meeting.
So, why such a low turnout? We have 14,000 registered voters, and even more if you count residents with Crestview addresses that aren’t in city limits.
How is it that only 18 people care about marijuana dispensaries or RV ordinance reform? I’m sure that more than 18 people were issued notices by Code Enforcement for non-compliance in storing their campers, and potentially faced $500 per day in fines.
Community apathy is why.
We can all complain on Facebook, but that’s not going to move the needle. We make time for the things that matter most to us, and it's true.
Perhaps some people could NOT make it to the meeting — I know I couldn’t due to my whole house being sick. But it's improbable that an entire city had a stomach virus, or that the entire city works jobs they can’t have time off from with enough notice (again, it was well advertised).
If you couldn’t make it, did you email the council and ask that they live stream it or record it for later?
No matter where you land on any one of the bullet points listed above, as long as we as a community (I say "we" because I’ve been guilty of this too) are apathetic and disengaged, the things we complain about and want to happen will never happen. We can either actively work to destroy this disease of apathy, or embrace it and be happy with what we have.
We have what we have because of us, and we won’t have what we don’t have because of us.
Either change it, or embrace it.
Matt Gates, with the Facebook page Crestview Citizens for Change, is not to be confused with Matt Gaetz, the U.S. congressman. He lives in Crestview.