Published by the Colorado Daily 10/92
THE TIGHTROPE by Evan Ravitz
Early in '93 groundbreaking begins for the 13th Street Bicycle
Contraflow Lane, a strange hybrid of kept promise, Holy Grail,
grand compromise and Nicaraguan mercenaries; all in all the hottest
topic of '92 -it generated the most letters to City Council. (Downtown
businessfolk hired a PR mercenary to fight we cyclists- she's
not Nicaraguan, but a well-known politician.)
Longtime locals tell me we won. Cyclists heading South on 13th St. toward campus will no longer have to detour to 14th St. and back, violate the one-way on 13th, or risk Broadway. Cars lose thirty parking spaces on the West side of 13th, where the lane will be. The first parking given back to people since the Mall closed Pearl Street in 1977!
We wanted to close 13th from Walnut to Spruce to make a new section of the Mall, but with a bike path going through. Cyclist, neighborhood and environmental groups were overwhelmingly for this, in spite of disinformation by the City Planning department (see my May 7 column). Council says it will consider this for the future, but it took about 90 of us some 600 hours of work to force the promise of a bike route through downtown to be kept. Don't read City lips!
Interestingly, at the 13th annual International Pedestrian Conference on October 1, at the Boulderado Hotel on 13th Street, the keynote speaker equated the single-occupant auto to the Berlin Wall of transportation. It must fall or our planet is toast: There are 400 million cars on earth for over five billion people, one for every 13 of us. Here in the U.S., there's one for every two of us.
When everyone has the American Dream machine, it will be the planet's nightmare- we'll soon run out of oil and decent air, and the Greenhouse effect will rule.
Keynoter Hiemstra also said politicians are slowing the changes we need, so we need to encourage direct democracy:
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The Voting by Phone Foundation (whose goal is direct democracy) missed getting its initiative making phone voting an option for City elections on November's ballot. We needed 10% of the voters' signatures -we got 8%- next year we only need 5% as the law would have it. If City Council likes it can let us on next year with the old petition. Of course it takes just 5 of the 9 Councilors to put our proposal on the ballot themselves, instead of the 5400 signatures we needed this year to force it on. You might say they have more than 1000 times the power we citizens have. Is their judgement 1000 times better?
That's the kind of tilted playing field in the marketplace of ideas that the Voting by Phone Foundation seeks to rebalance. Once we have a convenient, ecological and economical voting system, we could use it often to vote on the issues ourselves. Phone voting is now about 4 times less expensive than the present archaic system, so lets reduce the signatures necessary to put initiatives on the ballot by 4 times. Then more citizens will be involved in making better laws. You might call it self-determination.
In Nova Scotia on June 20, some 7000 voted by phone in the Liberal Party primary, over 4 times the number that used to come to their convention in person. Each call cost fifty cents, compared to the typical $2 per vote that Boulder elections now cost. Phone voting saves much more in the hidden cost of gasoline and lost time.
Before the June 20 success was the June 6 failure, due to incomplete testing of the system. Unfortunately, both Boulder papers confused the issue (perhaps enough to thwart our petition) when the facts were clear. The Wall Street Journal, CBS and CNN got it right and gave us the coverage this deserves.
Canada is considering a national phone referendum on a new constitution. The Pentagon is considering phone voting for servicepeople. And the Civil Rights division of the Justice Department has been asked to sue for phone voting for the blind, pursuant to the Americans with Disabilities Act.
I first proposed voting by phone to the City Council over four years ago. If not us, who? If not now, when? Please write the Council (PO Box 791, Boulder CO 80306) asking them to hold hearings and put our initiative on the ballot next year. Send copies to the newspapers. Call us at 444-3596 for our free demonstration and literature.
As Nova Scotia Liberal leader Guy Brown says: "If we believe in democracy, this is the only way we can go."
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This summer for the first time musicians on the Mall could get permits to sell their own recordings and personal services (like massage and tarot) permits were available. Few have complained of a 'flea market' atmosphere as feared. Freedom and diversity are popular with nearly everyone here.
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BIKE MEXICO! (and maybe more). Four or Five of us head South for adventure in early November. First stop, Basaseachic Falls and Copper Canyon for a hot springs backpack trip. Further itinerary left to serendipity.
Two of us speak Spanish competently. One is an expert bike mechanic. I've biked most of Mexico before. Two intend to continue to South America. We are three men and one or two women so far. Like to go? Again, 444-3596.
Evan is the director of the Voting by Phone Foundation. He does the tightrope show on the Mall. He's plugging Bolder Bicycle Commuters which meets 6:30 November 2 and all first Mondays at the Morgul Bismark Bicycle Shop, 1221 Pennsylvania Ave.