The personal commitment I made late last week to boycott stores that might develop on the Hayes Arboretum land here in Richmond has gotten a bit of attention. The signatures of folks who share my commitment have been coming in steadily, with more than a hundred after just a few days. Bill Engle from the Palladium-Item called yesterday to interview me about the petition. He was friendly and understanding, but he seemed to have a hard time figuring out why I wasn't better fitting what I suspect was his profile of an "angry activist," which I'm not. Perhaps it would have been an easier story for him to write if I'd just chained myself to a tree? He did note that he was glad we weren't actually attacking the institution of Frisch's Big Boy itself...I take it he's a fan.
As a result of that exchange, today's front page story included a few awkward quotes from me, a condemnation from the president of the Chamber of Commerce, and an understandable "no comment" from the Mayor, who had previously spoken out against the development. The Palladium-Item couldn't have done the petition a bigger favor than to print the text of the pledge in full on the front page, which as a document endorsed by lots of people, speaks for itself much better than the article, I think.
The paper also published an editorial position on the issue, in which they make all sorts of presumptuous and inaccurate statements about why the petition exists; that it was written and is being signed out of anger, that it is a desperate attempt to block the development of the Arboretum land, and so on. I suppose it's possible that they read a different petition than the one I wrote, but I suspect that the more likely explanation is that the authors haven't yet bothered to understand what is really being said, or have assumed that anyone expressing an opinion on the issue can be lumped into one of two camps. I also didn't realize that making a viewpoint public through a peaceful written petition is now "an affront to civic fair play" and that it could be equated, as they did, with acts of physical assault.
One of the local news radio stations, WKBV 1490 AM, called earlier to interview me as a follow up, and I gave them a few more awkward quotes that are supposed to air later today. The interviewer, Bob Phillips, noted that he didn't think the whole thing was a big deal since the land being developed wasn't actually on the main road and wouldn't be visible. Though I think that's actually factually incorrect, maybe he has a point - if a tree falls in the forest and no one can see that it's gone...
As of 3:20 this afternoon, the petitiononline.com site where the petition is hosted seems to be experiencing server problems, and so the petition is unavailable for viewing or signing. You can't really beat the timing of that...so much for the post-conclave boost the signature levels might have gotten from those reading the paper today. Sigh.
I suppose these are the adventures one embarks on when one develops a public opinion about something in Richmond, Indiana. What remains to be seen is whether the resulting debate itself will prove worthwhile, given the can of worms I seem to have opened and poured all over myself.