Library LetterIt’s always good to get a win…even if it is small.

It all started with a simple forwarded email really. I got it forwarded from a friend of ours down in Columbus about a meeting of America Votes here in Delaware.

“Delaware? Sweet, I can do that”, I think.

So I go and was surprised to find 30 some people in a room. That led me to work with the organizer Scott Nunnery on setting up more meetings and with me getting more and more active. It’s also the reason I’m blogging, the reason I worked my ass off for Reform Ohio Now…all from a simple forwarded email. Funny how life works sometimes.

Our local library has an outstanding meeting space. Scott had tried to use it for an America Votes meeting, but was turned away due to their policy of not allowing religious or partisan political groups from using it. Though America Votes is not affiliated with a political party, it is clearly left leaning.

I figured I would give it a shot since I was local and maybe that would make a difference. Nope. “This is a partisan group and our meeting room policy does not allow that”, she said.

“How can we change that”, I asked. She told me to come to the next board meeting and ask them to consider changing the policy. My first thought? “Yeah right”. It must have been the word “board” that did it. I always viewed boards as mostly do nothing groups averse to change. I was advocating they radically change and almost reverse their policy on the meeting room.

But I thought the policy silly, and decided I would indeed fight it.

I called and got on the agenda for the next board meeting and began Googling library meeting room policy, first amendment, freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, public use of library meeting spaces, etc.

I snapped back into debate mode from the old high school and college days really and put together the best 1AC I could given the time I might have in front of the board (1AC is the first affirmative speech which kicks off a two man debate round). I would have about the same amount of time as back then, 8 minutes.

It went pretty well and the board took it under advisement. I was citing court cases in other state, Supreme Court decisions…just all kinds of stuff. It was fun.

Soon after I got a letter from the President of the DCPL, which I felt really good about due to her referring to my “well defined case”. Things were looking up.

Letter 1

The wait was a bit long and I missed the meeting at which they were to discuss it due to a business trip in Quebec, but just recently I got another letter:

Letter 2

What a great feeling it was after getting my ass kicked on RON to have this little win to feel good about. It has done wonders for my energy and willingness to work to get stuff done. Who knows? Maybe there will be a meeting at the library now out of which grows a major progressive movement in my county and this may have been the start of it. Whatever the case, groups now are open to using this great space to gather, talk, strategize, socialize, train, and help each other in whatever effort they want.

And it was all because someone forwarded me an email and I went to a meeting.

I would urge anyone to do the same if they see something that seems silly or not right. Ask how to change it. What is the process by which this can be changed? Then go do it. You never know. I attribute my success to my overall approach. I did not go at it like I was pissed off about it and take a negative angle. I just laid out an alternative clearly and with evidence to back it up. I think that made the difference.

Without knowing anyone who was on the board, I could have easily been overly combative and responded with too much negativity to the fear of the unknown. How pleasantly I was surprised, however, when two of the people sitting on the board said hello to me at the Sheehan candle light vigil a few nights later in front of City Hall. They complimented me on my presentation and it felt really good to see them there and have them say that. Always err on the side of kindness I guess!

…now go change something!

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  • You did make a difference. Good for you, and also good for them (the board). One simple e-mail, and one good question can change the world (at least our little parts of it). Once again as DG would say, “grassroots, baby!”

  • Congrats Eric! I wouldn’t say you got your ass kicked on RON. Yeah, it was disappointing to see it rejected out of hand. But you got a blog out of it, and have begun some great work in Delaware.

    Politics can put me on a combative footing, but it’s amazing how many people are appreciative of volunteers. “Always err on the side of kindness” is a hell of a motto.

  • Eric

    Thanks guys. I still consider the RON deal an ass kicking, though 😉

  • dirtgirl

    wow, that’s amazing, congratulations!

    just curious… what is America Votes up to in Ohio? I’m about to move from New York to Columbus and want to get involved in local politics. Are they doing anything interesting? Should I skip it and hook up with the local party and/or DFA?

  • Scott#2

    It was an ass kicking…yes…though it was a collective *ass*. Just the same…tons of incremental progress this year including this blog, these relationships, the policy change at the library and the fact that we are already planning for November 2006 – huge improvements over for our side.

    dirtgirl – email me at scott@americavotes.org and I’ll bring you up to speed on what’s going on on the AV front.

  • Eric

    All true Scott. Good point. We are making progress and this is positive. I can’t wait for the day that our victories are not moral ones.

    I hoped you would chime in to respond to dirtgirl…thanks!

  • Eric

    After talking privately with some library staff, I have learned there was quite a bit of reticence on their part due to the prospect of groups considered offensive to them possibly using the meeting space.

    I understand this concern, but promised them if the KKK ever decides to hold a meeting at the Delaware Library it will be a huge waste of time because I will personally guarantee a healthy demonstration against such a thing.

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