Decibel Hosts 4th Del Valle Listening Event

By Pete Ramirez | Monday, November 8th 2021

Last week, Decibel held it’s fourth listening session for the Del Valle community. This is in line with our updated mission statement and values which emphasizes that our journalism is “community-led.” The Decibel team has been covering the Del Valle area for nine months now. Although the Austin area is now in Stage 3 Covid-19 restrictions, we decided to play if safe and held this event virtually via Zoom.

Once again, we were joined by the Austin Monitor’s editor-in-chief, Elizabeth Pagano, who has partnered up with us to assist us with our reporting in Del Valle.

This event had far more RSVPs than any of our past events with a total of 77 people who signed up to attend. However, only 11 people actually showed up. This time around we offered a $10 Sonic gift card to see if a small incentive would boost turnout. It seems to have enticed RSVP, but we still had a large drop-off rate like previous events. We will need to do some more investigation to understand the disconnect.

Once our guests were settled in, we presented two of our recently published stories to them: More Than a Match and “It’s Kind of Stressful”: Del Valle Parents Struggle With School Traffic. After presenting each story, we polled our participants to find out two things: how they rated the overall storytelling and how they defined the impact each story had on themselves. We had a few attendees arrive late or choose not to answer so the polls do not reflect all 11 participants.

Poll results from listening session.

Polls results from listening session. Particpants were asked to rate the overall storytelling of each story showed during the event.

A majority of attendants (six out of seven) rated the storytelling in More Than a Match as “excellent” while one participant rated it “good”. The results for “It’s Kind of Stressful” were a bit more mixed with five participants who rated it “excellent”, four who rated it “good” and one who rated it “fair”.

“More Than a Match” is a video story that documents the work of Kenneth “Nino” Sylvia who provides an outlet for Del Valle children to have fun and release their stress and anxiety through his new program —Del Valle United Soccer Club. In response to viewing this video story, two of the nine participants in the poll said that part of their identity was portrayed in an authentic way. Four of the nine participants said the story inspired them to become more involved in the community and three of the nine said they learned something new about their community.

One participant stated that they have been looking for an activity their 10 year old could participate in and now they were seriously considering contacting Sylvia. Another participant said that this was a good story. The same person stated that she feels that the Del Valle community gets “lost in the middle between Austin and Bastrop,” and “it’s important for the broader community to understand what matters here, to us and what impacts us.”

We then read the written piece “It’s Kind of Stressful”: Del Valle Parents Struggle with School Traffic, which is about how Del Valle parents deal with the stressful daily traffic congestion that happens on Ross Road. In response to hearing this story, six of the nine respondents to our poll said that a part of their identity was portrayed in an authentic way. Two of the nine participants said that the story inspired them to become more involved in the community and one of the nine said they were not impacted by the story in any way.

After we asked our participants to elaborate on the choices they made in our polls, one Del Valle resident said the storytelling was “good” and not “excellent” because the story “didn’t really describe the stress level” that parents experience when they go pick up their kids from school and are forced to deal with the heavy traffic. This same Del Valle resident said that the danger kids face walking home from school is also something that she would’ve wanted to be highlighted in our story. A second participant agreed with the first and said that dealing with the traffic on Ross Road is traumatizing. “It’s hell getting through that traffic,” she said. “It’s just one way in, one way out and you’re stuck there and there’s nothing you can do, there’s nowhere you can move.”

Continuing with this sentiment of traffic woes in Del Valle, this resident then began speaking about how horrible traffic was during the recent F1 event held at Circuit of The Americas. She said that during that weekend, it took her two hours to slowly crawl through the congestion and make it back to her home in the Los Cielos neighborhood in Del Valle.

Poll results from Del Valle listening session

Polls results from listening session. Particpants were asked to describe the impact of each story.

Before we pivoted the meeting to breakout rooms where participants were allowed to share their thoughts more fully, we administered a final poll which asked participants to rate Deibel’s work in Del Valle overall. The results showed that four of the nine respondents thought Decibel is doing “excellent'' while five of the nine respondents thought Decibel’s work in Del Valle has been “good.”

We then divided our participants into three breakout rooms to provide a more personal setting where people could share their thoughts and ideas. In one breakout room, the hot topic was regarding Del Valle High School and how they have been responding to issues of bullying and a recent incident involving a BB gun. Two participants said that well before the BB gun incident, they had pulled their children out of DVHS and enrolled them in online schooling. One of the Del Valle residents in this room worried that the new Tesla factory would exacerbate all of the current problems that the community is facing. She also mentioned how dark and dangerous the roads are in Del Valle and said she would love more street lights to be installed.

In another breakout room, a few residents mentioned that people from California are randomly stopping in front of Del Valle homes, knocking on doors and asking if they would like to sell their homes. One participant also asked why there isn’t a community center in Del Valle and stressed the need for a place for kids to go after school and for the community at large to convene.

In the third breakout room, we received suggestions from participants on how to receive more feedback on our stories by sharing them via social media. This could potentially allow us to receive feedback from people that can’t make it to our meetings. In this room, we also heard how infrastructure is still a significant problem in many parts of Del Valle. One resident told us how they live partially off the grid and are forced to collect and live off of rainwater because they are not connected to the public water system. This resident said that they recently have been able to connect their home to the internet but before this new connection was established, they were forced to use hot spots for their children’s schooling.

When we mentioned that Decibel is working on a directory to help Del Valle residents distinguish what city or county services they are entitled to, many expressed interest in this project.

After bringing everyone back to the general room, we asked our participants why they joined our listening session today. One resident said that they joined because they wanted to get more involved with the community and thanked us for holding listening sessions for Del Valle. Another resident said she wanted her voice to be heard and had not heard about our Sonic Drive-In gift card incentive.

Based on the polling results, it appears that those who participated in this event felt like we are accurately portraying the Del Valle community. However, we can still improve on capturing the full spectrum of voices in the area. Hopefully the next event garners even more of the community to participate. Ultimately, the feedback we received was largely positive which indicates that Decibel is executing on our mission of allowing the community to lead us to our stories.

We plan on holding another listening session for the Del Valle community early next year and we will be using the feedback from this event in upcoming stories. If you want to share ideas for our next listening session, or provide a tip for a story in Del Valle, please email us at

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