Decibel Hosts First Dove Springs Sounding Board Meeting

By Blair Waltman-Alexin | Monday, August 28th 2023

Decibel’s new community advisory group for its Dove Springs reporting project held their first meeting on August 24th. The group, called the Sounding Board, is made up of both long-term and newer residents. Some have family ties to the area, and others want to be more involved in the community they call home. But all of them expressed an interest in sharing the stories of Dove Springs.

“I was born in Austin and raised in Dove Springs,” one member said. “I’m really excited I get to hear stories about the neighborhood I grew up in.”

The Dove Springs Sounding Board consists of ten community members. Members filled out applications to join the board earlier this summer and were selected based on several factors, including their knowledge of the area and interest in community engagement. Throughout our reporting project, they’ll provide feedback on our work and help direct our storytelling. Of those ten members, five were able to join us for the first meeting which was held virtually.

Decibel’s senior multimedia reporter Blair Waltman-Alexin led the meeting. She explained Decibel’s community-led journalism initiative, and how during this reporting project, the team would be focusing on housing issues. Based on conversations with residents and early research, Decibel had honed in on five potential topics to kick off our reporting. They were gentrification, flooding, cost of living, homelessness, and history of the area. Members could also suggest a different subject. Board members discussed the themes and then voted on which topics we should focus on first.

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Two members voted for stories on the history of Dove Springs. One vote went to gentrification, one went to cost of living, and one board member chose ‘other.’

“I agree with all these topics,” the member said. “We have a lot of issues in Dove Springs. That’s why I chose ‘other.’ Because I choose everything.”

Waltman-Alexin also asked for feedback on a project about the urban heat island effect. As a collaboration with Austin Vida, both teams will report on the issue and how it’s impacting Dove Springs residents. The Sounding Board was asked if this was a story that would address a community concern. Board members affirmed the choice, voting either ‘yes’ or ‘maybe’.

“It’s really getting bad,” one member said. “Everywhere you go…somebody’s AC is going out.”

Another major topic of discussion was flooding. Rising waters have hit the community hard several times over the years, and the historic Halloween flood in 2013 is still having a ripple effect in the community. It’s impacted everything from insurance rates to family relocations. Several Sounding Board members shared their own experiences with flooding.

“I think the feelings are very real,” the member said. “I feel like if they capture the history, there’s no way you cannot capture the flooding.”

But the group didn’t just discuss hardships. They also discussed hope and resiliency. One member mentioned an anniversary event for the 2013 flood that would include a mural unveiling. Others discussed interviewing residents who lost their homes and sharing their memories of home. The group also brainstormed on ways to share content in Spanish. Waltman-Alexin shared that one of the first stories that will be published will be asking local kids about their dream home, sharing their creativity and dreams.

Decibel and the Sounding Board will keep the conversation going as we continue our reporting in Dove Springs.

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