Monday, May 26, 2008

Purpose..all in a day's engagement

Today I got to speak with strangers, passionately about principles upon which this country was formed. No matter what the outcome of the vote on Tuesday, I can say today’s 1 on 1 time was well spent.
I was at the parade in town today BUT I was not really there. I had a juggling challenge: To be respectful of those attending to honor the fallen with the opportunity to inform myself and the CB Team more about how the Community Access TV community building project resonates with residents.

The tone was random. Its details: 1 corner, 1 hour, 2 ½ volunteers (The 1/2 a penguin out of habitat.), a few revelations, several affirmations and perfect weather. The opportunity was both twisted with irony and suspended in time. Its true potential yet to be revealed and to be disclosed on Tuesday at the Town Council.

The memory evoked was ironic. In New Haven as LWV President @ 1986 I was host to
CSPAN. CSPAN was new and covering local grassroots elections. Bill Dyson was running for State Representative for his 10th year. This was my 1st experience with cable TV, futuristic technology and local partnering. The LWV was still considered expert in debate format and trusted for its non-partisan approach to community engagement.

The debate moderator and my peer (a.k.a. new partner-Junior league leadership) handled things much differently than I would have. We were in a downtown church after several prep meetings. Then lights, camera action AND the satellite dish failed. A few minutes of technical check and we continue the LOCAL debate. It is approaching 9 PM and we are literally closing in on the end of the event. The moderator comments within range of a hot microphone. “I felt like an Oreo cookie middle’. So politically incorrect and so fortunately NOT on National TV, I was relieved. Today @2008 the high tech box had a battery which was inadvertently drained. At the last minute plans for a LIVE feed of the parade to TV and the Internet was short-circuited. Very few knew we failed to attain our objective. Similarly few knew we proved the capability on May 24th. The citizen producers on the other corner were most likely being politically incorrect in a fashion that has been known to remind me of the Oreo incident. And the future was being touched. Many will be changed in the future by what we were attempting to do today.

But that is history and my focus was the near future. I was trying to determine the best step forward into the future for the CB Team.

So what was revealed or affirmed by talking 1 on 1 with random people? Dan came closer to understanding my dedication to project (This is important because as a parent who chooses community involvement over family time it is essential that the child(ren) understands that it is not either or, it is all for them.) Dan apologized that we got a later start than planned. But 100 or 200 signatures is not substantively different. Actually, none of our informing the community 1x1 effort will matter if the vote is otherwise already cast.

Dan charismatically got more than 100 signatures. He represented the ideals and the hope associated with the project. His commitment to democratic ideals and passion for justice were evident. I got about 40 signatures. But 40 out of 42 is good especially in a random interaction. I shared more details about the building, process and history. Dan stats were as good. Few shrugged us away. Fewer still said no if they agreed to be informed. People willing to listen was inspiring.

The basic concepts of the
proposal: do not demolish the building. Use it for a community purpose. Price is not the driving factor from citizen perspective. Preserving history & free speech is good. Partnering is expected. ALL of this resonated with 99% of those approached.

Affirmed: Those aware of the issue based on newpaper coverage did not hesitate to sign a petition. Many wanted to know why the town was not giving us the building? Most wanted to know what the opposition position was? No one felt the building should be demolished IF there was a legitimate community alternative.

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