Friday, April 5, 2013

A tale from the trail

This is an abbreviated tale of what was really a 25-day campaign to collect 19,803 signatures to place the Parking Plot on the ballot to provide some perspectives.  At a later date, we may expand on this and tell the whole story.

The dastardly ordinance passed on March 6, a Wednesday.  Wednesday, Thursday and Friday morning were consumed with obtaining and defending the injunction before Judge Bob Winkler.  Friday afternoon our legal team prepared and filed the paperwork with the City Finance Director allowing the referendum to proceed.

Petitions were printed on Saturday, and circulation began with our rally in Oakley Square on Sunday, March 10, starting the 26-day clock to our deadline.

The hearing on the permanent injunction on the Parking Plot before Judge Winkler was on Friday March 15, and we wanted as many signatures as possible before then.  We used that hearing date to motivate an initial surge of activity.

And by that date, roughly 3,500 signatures were collected.

After that date however, things began to lag.  Some people misunderstood that that was the end of the drive; others did not want to waste their time if the Judge ruled that the issue could not proceed.  And others continued the day-to-day hard labor of obtaining signatures.

By March 23, we started to fire up the engines of productivity again.  That Saturday, we have ten teams hitting the streets, with COAST motivating around eight volunteers itself to collect, and hosting a drive-thru signing in Mt. Lookout Square.

Still, by Monday, March 25, numbers were lagging and many people were busy or traveling over the approaching Easter weekend.  Weather continued to be cold and nasty.  Things were not bleak at that stage, but it was an uphill challenge.

That all changed starting at 10 AM Thursday the 28th.  On that date, two things happened (i) Judge Winkler called in the morning to announce that he had determined to issue the permanent injunction in a well-written 16-page decision and (ii) Mayor Mallory, Milton Dohoney and John Curp had their famous "pink slip" press conference where they simultaneously threatened petition signers, petition circulators and 300 firemen and policemen in Cincinnati.

Those two acts spurred furious volunteer activity from every corner of this City  and in every one of its 52 neighborhoods.  They motivated hundreds of volunteers to hit the bricks to obtain signatures, and fired up more than ten thousand petition signers to seek out our petitioners and gladly sign.

Yes, Mayor Mallory and his completely over-the-top rhetoric and tactics of holding police and firemen hostage over his political spat was the biggest factor in our late success.  In kind of perverse way, Mayor Mallory was kind of our 316th volunteer, and our best motivator to get our numbers.

Finally, Tuesday's Hail Mary press event with Mayor Mallory, his six sycophants (Chris Seelbach was there in spirit) and one aimless guy from Over-the-Rhine, for some comic relief, simply compounded the error of the prior week.  Once again threatening people not to sign our petition simply brought more attention to the foolishness of the City's position on the issue, and drove signers into the arms of our petitioners, who were equally motivated to get outdoors to collect their signatures.  Opening Day and the clear weather and sunshine did not hurt anything either.

There are many sub-tales inside the tale, including the really stellar and unselfish leadership of Amy Murray, Jim Berns (our #1 volunteer), Pete Witte, Tom Brinkman, Jr., John Cranley and Christopher Smitherman.  Our loyal COAST blog readers hear and see their names and snippets of their activities, but you can't possibly know of the early morning text messages, the late night phone calls, the meetings, and petition drop offs, the counts, the review and quality control, and the endless exhortations to volunteers.

It was a tale of human sacrifice and leadership; a tale of foolish hubris on the part of our Mayor and his followers, and a tale, in the end, of a community that cares enough to stand up for itself.

The past 25 days are some of the finest in the history of our fine town.  The rest of the tale is yet to be told.

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