Painting the town neon yellow
November 6, 2014
OPINION by COLLEEN MARTIN
I have worked on local campaigns for twenty years. I have never experienced anything like the Arroyo Grande write-in Jim Hill campaign.
The write-in campaign brought together campaigners from all walks of life. None of the workers were close friends prior to the July 3 incident. But the outrage and frustration of being ignored at council meetings brought a core group together to paint signs, work corners on Saturdays, speak out, walk neighborhoods, and implement a media campaign in just four weeks.
Without a fundraising event or solicitation letter, businesses and citizens literally asked the committee if they needed funding. The campaign raised over $5,000 quickly.
The most critical aspect of the campaign’s success were the over 200 handmade signs. If you want to get people’s attention, hand paint large black letters on bright neon yellow poster board. More and more people and businesses requested them as they saw more neighbors displaying them. The groundswell of support started with the signs.
Obtaining permission for sign locations was easier than anyone imagined. We were a nonpartisan bunch who was not afraid to knock on doors. Campaigners who personally walked into businesses to gain permission functioned as listening bartenders when these merchants divulged their true feelings and stories of their dealings with the city.
Unfortunately we could only offer them a yellow sign and hope that the city council would take notice and respond to the message that 46 percent of the overall vote went to write-in candidate Jim Hill.
These were votes for Jim Hill, and more importantly, these were votes against Tony Ferrara.
In Arroyo Grande, 14.3 percent of submitted ballots did not vote for mayor in compared to 8.5 percent of San Luis Obispo voters, 4.5 percent of Pismo Beach voters and 4.8 percent voters in Grover Beach.
Why so high in Arroyo Grande? Perhaps because voters forgot to check the bubble for Jim Hill or they saw no opponent. It’s also possible voters preferred to vote for no one. These ballots are among those requiring manual review. Perhaps voters are exhausted by the status quo. Perhaps they too did not believe the made up tea party story profusely defended by the city manager and mayor. In addition, the voters finally voted out longtime incumbent Joe Costello.
The Hill campaigners gathered in the Village on Election Night to celebrate. With 58 percent of the poll voters voting for write-in candidate Jim Hill, the message has been sent to the city council and mayor that more than a “so called” small fringe group are not happy with the current leadership.
Overall, incumbent Mayor Tony Ferrara tallied votes on only 46.7 percent of the submitted ballots. This is hardly a mandate. In fact, the mayor barely survived the election. With 2,095 ballots yet to be read, the mayorship of Arroyo Grande is still up for grabs.
NOTE: On Sept. 19, 2014 Mayor Ferrara was sworn in as the President of the League of California Cities – a position that requires him to be a seated mayor.
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