Thursday, August 16, 2007

The results are in...

And they have been for a while, I just haven't had a chance to post.

So, for the short version. Nevermind. If I tell you the short version I think it would ruin the long version :)

So, on August 6th we had the city council meeting to discuss the issue of replacing the stop signs.

a little background...
Our city (and really, the city council) decided they were going to take down 3 stop signs on the major road through our community. They want our road to go faster so that more people will take that road rather than another, nearby neighborhood road. They claim this is safer for the community at large, since cars won't go too fast down smaller roads. As with all political issues, this one is spurred by several people, all with more or less hidden agendas. We heard about the agendas and realized we actually have an opportunity to get involved and do something about it, rather than sit back and watch as a decision is made that would cause harm to the kids that live in our neighborhood (which, by the way, is the largest development in the city).

No one I have mentioned this to seems to think this is a good idea, with the exception of the city council and two neighborhood residents. From what we could tell and from previous discussions at city council meetings, all city council members were in favor of removing the stop signs and to this point would not listen to our concerns about removing them. In this argument, we really were the underdog with no power against the big bad city council.

We needed to get the issue on the agenda by 6pm, Friday the 4th. If not, we wouldn't have the opportunity to present our position (state law), and the stop signs would be taken out on the 7th. If they were taken out, they would be much more difficult to be replaced later, at least until a kid was killed. So, we got together and slammed the city council with emails and phone calls demanding to be on the agenda on Monday.

It worked. On Friday at about 4:30pm the agenda was posted with our issue.

So, I spent the weekend agonizing over what would happen on Monday the 6th. I had a hard time sleeping (which, as you know, is highly unusual). I spent my time organizing information to present before the council. I talked a lot with neighbors and family ensuring I had their support. We walked the neighborhood getting signatures on the petition we had.

On the 6th there was first a workshop, where the city council intends to work with each other to brainstorm and gather information. then, there was the city council meeting. We were scheduled last on the agenda, which meant we would probably not get the floor until about 10pm. We urged the residents to attend both meetings and prepare for a long night.

During the workshop the city council discussed with the attorney and the city engineer about technical terms regarding who has the right to make the stop signs legal, are they currently legal, what should be done about their legality, and how safe was the road. We ran out of time before all of the questions were answered, so the rest were tabled until the city council meeting agenda.

The city council started at 7:30pm. Several agenda items were addressed before one councilman moved to move our agenda item earlier in the meeting. Thankfully, we had a good show of support in the room, standing room only, and the council voted to move the agenda item up in the agenda. Everyone had 3 minutes to speak, if they wished.

The discussion began with the HOA president presenting 386 petitions from residents to the city council. Then, if I remember correctly, one other person got up to speak. Then it was my turn. I asked the audience not to cheer or boo until I was done. I had five pages of information to get through in my 3 minutes, then I would have to give my presentation to others. So, I spoke as fast as I could while still being clear (I tend to stutter some) and passionate. When I had 1 minute left the mayor gave me a warning. I still had 3 1/2 pages left. So I tried to quickly run through the rest of my argument before my time was up. Everyone cheered for me and thanked me as I finished.

My sister came up next and I pointed to where I left off on my notes so she could hopefully continue. As I walked to sit down, I heard her ask the city council if she could donate her time to me. To my surprise, they asked for any objections (there were none) and then voted for me to continue. 3 MORE MINUTES!!!

As I walked back up to the podium (where, by the way, you have to follow formal rules and such, its so strange), the audience behind me were cheering and telling me "continue! we'll give you all the time you need". I suddenly knew I had the support of the audience. I felt like the football pplayer who just caught the football and was running full speed toward the end zone with no one else in sight. I continued with my arguments until, once again, I got the 1 minute warning from the mayor.

Another neighbor stood up and offered to give me their time, and again, we went through the approval process and I was allowed to continue. Picking up more speed, like a snowball rolling down a hill.

This happened a total of 4 times so that I could get done with all of my notes. The last time I turned around and asked the audience "is anyone else willing to give me their time? I only have 1/2 page left". Sure enough, people were willing.

As I walked away from the podium for the last time the room was so apreciative. I was humbled in how I could be used to present information as a representative of my neighbors. I was grateful that they trusted me enough to donate their own speaking time and were willing to do so. Wow. Thinking back I'm still in awe.

I walked away near tears. Not because of the issue, although no one can argue that it is an emotionless issue, but because of the affect my words obviously had on the crowd and that I was chosen to be able to do this. I was overwhelmed with the responsibility I was granted and the favor I was shown.

On a side note...I truly believe that God creates us with purpose. I believe He uses everything for good for those that love him. I believe that extends to every person, situation, and circumstance in our life so that we are perfectly prepared to be what God wants us to be when he needs us. We have the choice to recognize God's will and follow it, but he gives us what we need. In this case, I truly believe that God gave me the ability to research and prepare a presentation (in about an hour) that would fall on ears that were previously "closed" and that he granted me favor so that I could have the opportunity to do what I did. It has nothing to me and everything to do with Him. To God be the glory!

There were several others who spoke. All were passionate and expressed some valid points. No one got up to support removing the stop signs. No one.

I was feeling pretty good. Until the city council started speaking and sharing. 3 council members spoke before taking a vote. The first said (essentially) that although he supported postponing the signs now, ultimately, he feels we all need to accept change as our city grows and this is one way the city needs to grow. He supports the good for the city as a whole and can't give us special treatment. The second spoke up and said that he was portrayed in a bad light, and that he does really care about our kids. However, months ago he stood up and fought for the safety of our kids and heard from "us" that we wanted the city to have business. If we want business, that street needs to be a faster moving street. And he listened to us and supported us. Now that he has taken action to remove the signs we are fighting to keep the signs and attacking him. So, he says we need to figure out what we want. The third said this is not just a speed issue...its a people issue.

Then they spent 30 minutes (no joke) following the rules to make a motion, ammend it, get a second, ammend it again, make a motion, talk to the lawyer, then make a motion. Literally, I was hunched over biting my nails. Then they decided it was time to take a vote.

The motion was made to make the stop signs legal, keep them up pending a study, and to seek a study that would look at the safety and traffic in our area and one other in the city. (btw, they're spending 30 million on roads and hadn't done ONE safety study and had only done one limited traffic study in the last 5 years)

We all stared at the electronic board on the wall, waiting for them to flip the switch so we could all see the councils vote.

The room was silent.

Personally, I felt it was close. I was hoping for 4 out of 7, but didn't think it was likely. I knew for sure at least one would vote against us.

We waited.

Suddenly the lights on the board were turned on. ALL GREEN! the motion carried with a UNANIMOUS vote! We were shocked. We all stood up, cheering and applauding. It was a great moment in my life.

I felt like the person who just threw the last pitch of a no hitter game that ended the world series, and my team, the underdog, just won. I felt like everyone put me on their shoulder and was carrying me around as their hero. Everyone came up to me to tell me how well I did and thanked me. Half of the city council members came up to me and told me how well I did. They thought I was a lawyer. They asked me to run for city council. The mayor gave me his phone number.

I'm so grateful for the opportunity to be a part of this life. If I didn't work, I think I might just run for city council. I was energized by the ability to use my gifts and talents for something great. I'm completely humbled and in awe of our God.

The fight isn't over. We still have to make sure they do what they said they would and fight to keep our stop signs long-term. But we are on a roll now.


Mandi said...

Wow!! I'm super impressed and am so happy for the progress you've made so far, Marie. Hang in there!

The Johnson Junket said...

Good for you Marie! I'm proud of you for standing up for something you believe and having the courage to follow through!

Suzanne said...

Awesome! I'm glad it went through. :-)

FunkyMonkeyJunk said...

Marie, fabulous news! I'm so proud of you. I would have been shaking in my boots!

amelia said...

That is AWESOME!!! Proud of you, girlfriend!!!!

I was reading ahead of myself because I wanted to know what happened--you wrote the story really well!