We are great consumers of news, advice and opinions from people we might never meet. We pore through social media, online instant news, personal blogs and websites. We all can be authors, advertisers and reporters. However, it is critical that we understand these forums shape our beliefs.
A person earns credibility in many ways, and we want to be able to trust the people who make decisions for organizations, the people who lead causes and the professionals in many roles. How we make decisions, what moves us to consensus, varies with the issue, though.
If the decision is to promote a more harmonious outcome for a specific group, we strive to reach a shared opinion among the members of that group; we work to enable them to reach agreement with each other.
We have to sift through information provided to influence us, determining what is designed to be polarizing. We hope we will be inclined to make decisions on the basis of data. Unfortunately, sometimes the influence that produces the most “noise” wins. We must guard against that.
In our community, we often have to make decisions on issues that will affect a broad spectrum of people. That’s when we have to take care in examining the facts and checking out the science, though people’s “gut views” are bound to make their way into the process. We are social creatures, which means we are influenced by discourse with other people. However, in matters such as those involving county planning and stakeholder discussions for beach park planning and other structural/environmental changes, it is vital to keep our eyes on the facts and not get caught up in emotions.
We are blessed with community members willing to share the responsibility of crafting comments and providing guidance, to enable our local government leaders to make good decisions. We also are blessed with leaders and governmental staff who offer us receptive minds while they make appropriate inquiries and act as problem-solvers.
So, let’s think of our method of work as we focus on pedestrian and traffic safety, including proposals for new crosswalks and better lighting. We should keep in mind the good efforts already put forth to reduce speed limits and add traffic-calming devices throughout the Key. What more will we do?
We have data, good governmental staff and community organizations working collaboratively, and likely, sources of funding we can tap for the solutions we create. We’re united in core values as we work to keep each other safe, including a shared vision that we must encourage more pedestrian environments on the Key. Still, as we work toward new ideas, it may be necessary to set aside or suspend some beliefs or biases we have developed.
As we pursue this, here’s a fact that underscores the gravity of our work — a fact that seems unbelievable: Out of all the 50 states, Florida is No. 2 in pedestrian fatalities and pedestrian accidents that are seen, in the aftermath, as preventable. California took the top spot in 2011.
Let’s keep our good safety standing on the Key and earn the title of No. 1 in the world for exceeding industry standards for a pedestrian-safe parking lot at Siesta Public Beach and the roadways serving it. That’s a wonderful goal for us to strive to reach — a world-class beach and the safest “walkabout” community.
Catherine Luckner is a clinical psychologist and president of the Siesta Key Association.