Dawson Neighborhood

General Austin? Hey, I think Dawson Neighborhood might be a good candidate for a new Category. :smile:

To summarize why I’m here and why I’m involved in neighborhoods, I’m part of a small community group working to make our neighborhood even better by publicizing the small, poorly attended NA’s activities in a timely manner and to bring more people in to the meetings. Our neighbors deserve to have a voice along with everyone else. I really think they don’t right now. We need fresh blood in the NA, and it would truly be a simple task if we could just attend the next two meetings, nominate each other (Oct 12) , and vote for each other at the Dec 14 meeting.

Our NA, indeed, our neighborhood’s NAME is largely unknown to our residents! The DNA run a highly-censored Yahoo Group forum, so we launched a new, uncensored forum on Nextdoor. DNA conspired with ND to seize our forum from us by having themselves made the moderators! Imagine your Facebook page on healthy home cooking was handed to McDonald’s because Facebook thought it would increase ad views. NEXTDOOR IS NOT TO BE TRUSTED!!!

We also launched a neighborhood website in Jan 2014 after DNA vetoed the idea of having one (they’ve abandoned 3 websites in the past). So they launched their own “official” website a year later with no community participation.

They ignored our repeatedly-submitted petition to hold a vote on several policy changes to bring our Agenda and Minutes to our neighbors in a timely manner, and they held an unannounced, distorted survey to misrepresent our ideas and try to discredit them. The survey showed that most people supported our ideas, and if we’d voted that day, 5 of 6 motions would have passed. So they withheld the survey results 10 weeks, and then lied about the results (right next to the numbers which contradicted them).


The proposals would have the newsletter delivered a week before meetings instead of THE DAY BEFORE, would have the Draft Agenda available online instead of being available in ridiculously abbreviated form only on that newsletter, and have our Minutes, or some kind of detailed meeting summary available shortly after meetings instead of abbreviated down to a couple of cryptic sentences and printed, yep, on that same newsletter, which you understand comes out TWO MONTHS AFTER the previous meeting. It’s like DNA is trying to avoid opening a window into their activities, or giving neighbors a chance to get involved until it’s too late. The newsletter only goes out 6x a year, to 875 of our 3000 neighbors, and just to folks who live in free-standing homes. We have a number of large apartment and condo communities now.

I take notes at the meetings I attend, in order to write up our own unofficial “meeting reports”. I would love to share this task with a few others.


Other things we’ve done is raise money to buy 25 signs to put up around the neighborhood to advertise the meetings.

It only takes an hour to put the signs up, and minutes to pull them down, but it’s hard work constantly checking on them and fixing them. Or hunting for missing signs. We’re down to about 18 of them now since someone is pulling them up and throwing them out. Someone even took a sign down, and returned it several days later with the back painted over, and certain words scraped off to hide attribution to our group or mention of our website. This was not normal vandalism or kids having fun!

We’ve been working at this for two years now. Officer Nominations are coming up in one month, and most of the neighbors I’ve found to help me seem to have only been good for one project, and now they’re hard to get ahold of. I’ve even been told that there is an organized smear campaign against us.

Has anyone got some experience with this situation, and advice on how to reach and engage my neighbors?

Chad, try posting your links again. You can edit your post if you need to. You should be able to post them all now!

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Try clicking the “…” just to the left of the Reply button. The icons should expand and include the pencil (edit) icon.

Chad, I think you’ll find a lot of people here that have had almost identical experiences. There are some really great NAs that have been around for years, but there are also a lot that don’t want to allow most people in our neighborhoods to participate or their voices to be heard. After years of trying to move the original neighborhood association in Hyde Park to allow online voting and become more transparent and more representative, we decided to form a new neighborhood association. Original NAs that don’t want to be inclusive have spent years crafting bylaws to make it nearly impossible for anything to change or that discourage people from getting involved. In those situations the best thing to do might be to start your own new neighborhood association. If that’s something that you’d like to do, I and others here would be more than happy to help. It’s fairly easy to do. You mainly just need a few people in your neighborhood willing to help, a website, and bylaws, which you can use Friends of Hyde Park bylaws (http://friendsofhydepark.com/bylaws/) and make any changes to them that you want. The bylaws were setup with online voting and inclusiveness in mind. You might have really great luck getting new people involved in a new NA instead of trying to get them involved in an old NA. People generally stop going to those types of meetings because of the time constraints and they don’t want to be involved with all of the negativity that goes on during those meetings. A new NA can start with a better culture and a more positive outlook for the neighborhood that people will be excited to be involved in. I hope this helps!

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@chad @ChadV It looks like you’ve logged in as two different users. Your original user is @ChadV. To edit the original post, you’ll need to log in as that user.

Hi Chad,

In my experience, you need a hot issue to get neighbors involved. In Hyde Park, some of our hot issues have been ADUs, commercial uses on 45th Street, and the renaming of Lee Elementary.

What are some issues in Dawson that you think would interest your neighbors that aren’t currently involved with the neighborhood association?


@Pete_Gilcrease A couple of major barriers to starting a brand new NA is that Dawson is sort of a celebrity NA here in Austin, being one of the earliest, and frankly, still coasting along on it’s original reputation. Many of the Officers also live here on our end of the neighborhood, which is also one of the smaller ones in South Austin to begin with.

I don’t want to “take over” DNA, I want to raise neighbor’s awareness of DNA as a resource, get them to come to meetings and see what’s what (positives and negatives) and let them take the reins. If I could find enough neighbors who are interested, it would be terribly easy. The clique who run DNA are very small in size. At the last election, several positions went UNFILLED for lack of candidates, and two were taken by one person.

This might also be one of the most important elections in a long time. DNA’s President Ms. Myron Smith passed away earlier this year, Sandy McMillan is both Secretary and Newsletter Editor, and Vice President Steve Gee (Crow Bar owner) possibly being a bit wiped out from hosting the meetings himself when Sandy doesn’t show. My fear is that Sandy’s husband Peter Davis will aspire for DNA office. He is already Chairman of our NA’s sister organization, DNPCT and is the real person behind “Sandy’s” “official” DNA website, has appropriated the administration duties of our Yahoo Group from her (against By-Laws!) and is also the one who seized administration of our Nextdoor forum from ME.

There is too much power in their household, and they have a history which I feel does not promote an inclusive, innovative neighborhood or encourages participation. To wit, He’s the censor behind two neighborhood forums, and the admin of the rival website intended to squelch our DNO.

@rickyhennessy That’s an excellent strategy. We haven’t really had our own hot issue yet. We’ve made the meeting signs our own baby, and have tried to push for some policy improvements. Working within the system first. A lot of hay could be made out of DNA’s campaign against us, but that would likely serve to frighten more people off. I’m at a disadvantage too, as I don’t know how to “play dirty” let alone think along those lines, so I’ve experienced several unnecessary defeats. That’s not a playing field I feel comfortable approaching. DNA is far better at organizing an opposition to things, than they are at getting things done. All I really have my mind focused on is getting people involved and getting things done.

Sympathy for our cause has gotten DNO a lot of followers, but fewer active volunteers than we hoped for. I cannot emphasize enough how much dread our neighbors have for standing up to DNA people. Still, we’re seeing a steady “sea change” as people drift from the slumbering legacy resources DNA clings to, to our active DNO website. We’re eager to get back to hosting a live forum again, so our neighbors can continue to have an uncensored voice.

^^^ That
Most incumbent NA’s are just like this. When a hot issue comes up. Or they risk losing control, they can REALLY pull the people out of the woodworks. Take Crestview… They’re sitting on a pile of cash. Haven’t done anything with it to improve the area with it, yet can only get people to turn up if the status quo is threatened.

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I’m sorry that you’re experiencing so much trouble! Have you thought about focusing your efforts on the social side of the equation and building community from there? What about a National Night Out block party potluck?

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@NatalieGauldin Yes! Doing social events are an option wide open to us. DNA only does one annual social event, a potluck, so there’s no competition.

I do feature our neighborhood social events on the DNO website, and there’s been a handful relayed to me. Plus, I and five other neighbors organized 4 picnics at the park and 3 happy hours. Each event attracted 3-4 new attendees. We were hoping for better repeat attendance. We might have picked the wrong dates, or the wrong venues, or maybe just haven’t hit upon what our neighbors would take to. We didn’t do as much this year, and really need to stick to our guns and keep doing them regularly no matter what. The neighbors I worked with on this have lost heart. :frowning:

We were swiftly blocked from posting about our events in DNA’s yahoo group, and DNA officers made up a new rule about no events announced in the newsletter unless it was sponsored by DNA. Of course, other non-DNA sponsored events continue to be featured in it, as they always have been. Nextdoor was a great help, but my neighbors who are still watching the Dawson Nextdoor forum are intimidated against posting about these events there.

Sorry about the really short notice, but is there anyone available to meet with a small pack of Dawson Neighbors at 7 pm for coffee/beer and help us strategize how to reach our neighbors and get them involved in the Neighborhood Association? We are not the NA itself. The NA has a history of avoiding or shutting out our 3000 residents. One of our goals is to bring new blood into the NA by volunteering for office in 3 weeks and hopefully winning elections in Dec.

FYI: we’re meeting at the Once Over Coffee Bar at 7 PM tonight, 2009 S 1st St. Look for my blinking LED bike light to find us.

I won’t be able to make it tonight. I’ve actually got another FAN related thing to attend to.

I’m curious though, other than Dawson NA being exclusionary, what other issues do they have? For example, have there been resolutions they’ve voted on where you felt the outcome wasn’t representative of the true neighborhood? And if so, what were those resolutions? Like I said, I think finding a particular issue to get people excited is important, so if you can point out a time when Dawson NA made a decision for the neighborhood that you think was wrong, you’ll be able to get people to join your side.

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@rickyhennessy, one thing off the top of my head is that they hold a vote every year, 9 years running, to vote on being added to the city’s restricted parking map. this results in empowering APD to ticket for using unpaved driveways/yards instead of the friendly code enforcement staff. We’ve voted NO every year. We shouldn’t be bothered with this again. NA officers insist that the city has instructed them to hold this vote until it passes, by creatively misreading the letter sent to them each Oct. The city said WTF? when I spoke to them about it. Everyone who stands up and speaks in favor of this, admits they want to use it to report a neighbor they don’t get along with. There’s a “grandfathering” effect, but APD informed me that they will just ticket and let folks sort it out in court.

But you’re right, we really do perhaps need a substantial crisis to wake folks up. At present, we have a tight clique running the NA that has a hostile history, and folks have given up trying to participate and confront them. They don’t get much done. They’re better known for getting things stopped, and even that reputation is a number of years old. We lost our bohemian artists colony some years back because DNA couldn’t be arsed to listen to them and oppose the redevelopment.

Thank you so much, @rcauvin for sitting down with us Dawson neighbors this evening! You had an intuitive understanding of our situation, and gave some stellar advice! It was so very good to know that we’re not alone, and that others have succeeded in rescuing their neighborhoods from similar circumstances. Would recommend +10!

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I’d say focus on a cause, not on on particular issue. For example, FAN is about reclaiming the word “neighborhood” for the voices of inclusion. Many individual issues fall under the umbrella of this cause. Each person decides in their own mind which issues are key for them.

That said, at any particular time, an individual issue can galvanize people, provide urgency, and serve as a powerful example of the more general cause you are advocating.

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I’ve already written about this above, with apologies, but here’s another attempt for folks asking me about ND in another thread:

To be perfectly honest, it makes me sick to see how easily nextdoor wins the trust and consideration of so many people. They look so clean and friendly, right? Blogs are full of glowing reviews. Even Dr. Phil endorses them. Never mind the eye-popping amount of personal info they demand to sign up. I find people smirk at me as a conspiracy theorist whenever I tell them the plain facts about my own experience with nextdoor.

The NA’s Yahoo Group

Our NA severely censors the Yahoo Group they have run for the last 15 years. If they (the moderator, an Officer and her husband using her account illicitly) don’t like your opinion, they’ll mute you, and also warn you not to tell anyone you’ve been muted since “they don’t moderate” and saying otherwise would be “a lie, intended to disrupt our discussions”. Yes, read that sentence again. I kept the emails, if you doubt me. So, for lack of the voice of those being muted, the rest go on chatting and come to what they believe is an actual consensus of the neighborhood’s opinion. I know more folks who have been booted off for telling people they’re being censored, than for exhibiting any un-neighborly behavior.

Our Alternative Forum

A small group of neighbors and I were on the verge of launching our own uncensored forum when we hit upon nextdoor. We founded our group there instead, due to ease of setup and national promotion bringing people to us without even needing to publicize it. An avalanche of our neighbors hopped over from the YG to ND. We were shortly joined by friends of the NA who were there to keep an eye on us heretics and place a chilling effect on open conversation. I was a moderator “a Lead”, and they harassed me as much as they felt they could, within the ND guidelines. ND knew and understood that we were an alternate, “refugee” group, and promised to respect that and protect us. Again, I kept those emails. ND has experience dealing with hostile HOAs that discover their neighbors have launched an alternate forum outside their control.

Behind the scenes, the NA was enjoying phone calls with ND reps and exchanging emails.

Our Community Handed Over on a Plate

After 18 months of relative liberty and open communication, and an enthusiastic population topping 240, I got an abrupt email from ND saying cheerfully that I was now no longer the moderator, and that they’d handed it directly over to… the husband of the YG’s moderator. And they were ever so sure that we’d get along great, and bye bye now. Imagine that Facebook handed your page about healthy cooking over to McDonald’s because they thought McD’s were a better authority of food (and it would increase ad views)?

Another Forum Censored

Discussions about the NA on ND have now been scrubbed out, my friends have all been placed in “read only” mode where they cannot access most of the discussions or interact with anyone else, and I have been booted from the forum without cause. Conversation has died, and the NA continue to only publicize their old YG.

We are apparently not alone, as others are sharing the same experience on other websites:

ND Staff Are Discriminatory

As a Lead, I found that ND treated our Dawson Neighborhood community as their own, to micromanage and manipulate. I was treated like an employee, not a volunteer. ND Staff take sides, and disregard the rules at will. These “Guidelines” themselves are poorly written - word salad - and I saw with horror how willing they were to interpret them either way just to win a debate. Whether or not you are treated well or poorly when you write help@nextdoor.com depends on their ulterior interests. Rumors also say that your number of “mutes” made by other members to ignore you, also determines whether they’re nice, or frankly, abominable to you.

ND Management Has Boundary Issues

I had a prior run-in with ND when I pursued a discussion about ND’s “security” and “privacy”. Any reasonable person can see how simple is to join under a false identity, and then go harvest the neighborhood directory for full names and addresses. Anyone can see that monitoring the forum gives great insight into each member’s inclinations, possessions, schedule and tenacity. It’s the information ND harvests and sells, after all. They banned me from the private “National Lead’s Forum” for raising those questions and describing an actual hack I’d …ahem… observed. But first, they abruptly suspended the accounts of all 4 of our Leads, and sent me an email instructing me to demonstrate how to hack their application process, as I had been discussing.

The person contacting me was their very own Gordon Strause, Director of Neighborhoods for all 45,000(?) forums nationwide. I refused to play ball. He pressed me rather sternly, and the cold cheerfulness of his emails would send chills down your spine. It was unreal! He was keen to boot me until I told him I was organizing a neighborhood picnic and he realized my absence would be difficult to explain. So he restored me as a Lead in appearance only. He crippled my already meager admin tools, and ordered me to get his direct permission for other activities. He cut me off from some of the newsfeeds and set City/APD comments to always appear “closed” so I couldn’t participate. Any email I send to ND, whether directly to an agent or to the general “help@” is either ignored or answered personally by Gordon now. Any variation of my email or mention of our Dawson community is clearly filtered or flagged for special handling.

Electronic Remote Crowd Control

You gotta think about this! As a forum goes, ND is actually rather feature-poor with regard to presentation of information and management, compared to any free Wordpress blog or PHPbb forum. Feature request threads on their private Lead’s forum get removed. Yet they’ve spent all this time and effort instead to work hidden tools into the mesh to manipulate and silence members and Leads alike. There is no merit system. The environment is not some modern naturally-positive self-managing meritocracy like you would imagine in this day and age. No, we’re all expected to SMILE AND BE CHEERFUL, and if you don’t fit in, you get shunned, and eventually banned. Such a waste of technology, and such a lack of vision for both human communities and culture. It’s simply not in ND’s DNA to foster authentic human relationships. They only host marketable, non-controversial drivel.

From then on, ND were incomprehensibly unreasonable with me when I turned to them for help with my unruly NA members. These same NA members are now golden, and can and have broken the clearest conduct Guidelines without penalty under the new leadership. You bet I saved the emails.

Believe anything you want. The fact is, ND can and may choose the character of your neighborhood’s culture in THEIR forums, and they expect Leads to be their obedient agents in the field. They can and will hand your membership and written works directly over to your rival for their own benefit, convenience or ambition.