Over 3400 Voters Say "Let PB Decide!"
Dear council members and neighbors,
I’ve appeared before you on a number of occasions over the last 18 months. I apologize for any counter-productive or offending behavior which set our paths at odds. My business and livelihood, as well as the livelihood of my staff, were in jeopardy. I was thrust into this political world I was not prepared for. Thank you for the opportunity to address you this evening.
On July 5, a group of citizens appeared before you hoping to restore choice and competition to the City Cable network. We were told that an ordinance by petition was our only solution.
In a letter dated June 28, 2011 Mr. Bagby wrote: “If you do acquire the correct number of signatures…please be assured the City Council will abide by the ‘letter of the law’ and ‘spirit of the law’ and honor the vote of the public whichever way it turns out.”
Today, I’m excited to announce that over 3,400 of your neighbors, family and friends, but most importantly your constituents, stand with me today. We The People of Poplar Bluff want the Open Access Ordinance placed on our next ballot.
The breakdown of constituents by ward who stand with me today, shows that this is truly a city-wide issue: Wards 1, 2, 3 and 5 were all around 600 voters while ward 4 topped 900.
I’ve spent a lot of time in each of your wards. I’ve knocked on countless doors and spoken heart-to-heart with hundreds of our fellow citizens.
Like the young man raising his family of four in Ward 1; he recently lost his job. The day I knocked on his door he had just gotten his first unemployment funds. He told me how the bills dwarfed what he’d received and they have nothing until the next check. He had to cancel his City Cable services because it was just too expensive.
He said he didn’t know how much longer his landlord would allow them to stay there. I told him that he can survive that too, and shared with him, that when we lost all our cable customers, I had to sell my home and explain to my children why we had to move in with family.
We both spoke of a better day when this economy is back on its feet and those who seek a good job can find one. And we also talked about how our citizens should benefit from owning this network with lower prices and better services. I urge you to listen to Gerald’s voice this evening.
A young lady from Ward 5 had just recently received her voter registration card when I knocked on her door. She was excited to perform her first task as a United States voter; or the man from Ward 3 who was registered but has never voted, he said he would vote for the first time when this makes the ballot. Listen to Beth’s and Chris’ voice this evening.
One man and his wife from Ward 2 were former semo.net cable customers, he said he didn’t think it was possible to get to 2,900 signatures but if we ever got to 2,850 they’d sign and they did. I urge you to listen to their voices.
Jerry lived in Ward 1 and worked for semo.net. He was one of eight employees who lost their job in May and June because Open Access ended. Unsuccessful at finding a job here, he had to move his family to Marion and our town lost a good family.
A lovely lady on Pershing Street in Ward 4, lit up when she opened the door and I introduced myself. She recognized me from my City Council appearances and scurried into the other room returning with her petition… already signed. She hugged me and gave me such strength to keep going.
I’ve spoken with policemen, firemen and other city workers and their spouses who wanted to sign but couldn’t afford the scrutiny it might bring. I’ve spoken with hundreds of City Cable users who live outside the city limits and are not allowed to participate in this petition. They have no voice here, even though they teach our children, own businesses in town, and spend their money here. I urge you to hear them tonight.
I’ve counted and recounted these people who signed this petition. We have many more than the 2,900 needed to make our voice heard. It is now time to place this in the hands of our citizen voters.
This is an honest consensus of your constituents. Our city has spoken like we’ve never spoken before on a single issue. The people who elected you now hand you a mandate. Let’s not get bogged down by some technical argument about the petition itself. Let’s not argue over hanging chads.
Let’s honor the spirit of what this petition brings to light: Your city wants to vote on this issue!
After receiving the petition this evening, our Missouri law allows our City Clerk, Ms. [Pam] Kearbey, only 10 days to certify this petition. That means the certification must be concluded by Nov. 17. And it will take as many as seven full-time city or county employees over the next 10 days to meet this deadline.
You have every right to spend the thousands of dollars necessary to certify this petition, but I’m confident of the outcome, and I suggest that you save time, energy, frustration and money, and just put this on the ballot. Let [Poplar Bluff] decide.
The deadline for placing a question on the February 2012 ballot is Nov. 22 and the City Council is scheduled to meet on Nov. 21. Let’s work to get this on that February ballot.
I am available 24/7 over the course of this process to aid our city clerk, our city manager and each of you.
I suggest that the ballot question be similar in form to:
Shall Poplar Bluff, Missouri, pass the Open Access Petition Ordinance and encourage choice and competition on the City Cable network?
This ordinance requires “at cost” pricing and should not increase cost to the tax payers.
As you have promised, I too make that same promise: I will abide by the ballot results. If the people go to the polls and our ordinance is not passed, I will respect the outcome and not bring this issue before you again.
I would be remiss if I did not mention how essential our County Clerk, Tonyi Deffendall, and her staff have been to our efforts. Her office has received hundreds of voter change of address forms during the past two months. Our petition efforts could not have been successful without the tireless assistance of Ms. Deffendall and her staff.
To the thousands of citizens who stand with us in this request, I am utterly and humbly grateful. To the amazing friends who came into my office and laid cash on my desk to help fund this effort I will forever be indebted. To Barb Rexroat who has been an inspiration, an anchor, a guiding force and a workhorse. [My wife] Toni and I love you. To my parents, who in their 80s walked with us in the July heat over the hills of Bluff Estates: You amaze me.
Getting 2,900 people to stand with my wife and I seemed like such an impossible hill to climb. And yet daily, one or more of you would lift us up with your encouragement; your prayers; your help, your gifts, your stories; a hug or kind words.
Thank you, Poplar Bluff, for believing in me and my vision for our citizen-owned cable network.