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That we wanted them to pay attention

Posted on 12 August 2010

That we wanted them to pay attention.”The provision probably also helped make the initiative popular, because of the kick-in-the-pants message it sent to the political elite. It says plainly that unless members of the city council take the thing seriously and get the monorail project moving within 12 months, then their salaries will be withheld.”It had been a long night,” quips Mr Falkenbury, 45, when asked about the “or else” clause. Instead, they made seven plywood signs with maps of their proposed system and placed them at important junctions around the city. Attached to each was a pencil and paper for signatures.Not only did they gather all the signatures and get the initiative approved by the voters – which means it automatically becomes law – but they included in it a provision about which they, and many others in Seattle, are still laughing. They persuaded a majority of Seattleites to back a ballot initiative that aims to force the city to build a whole new mass-transit system. Specifically, an elevated monorail, 40 miles long, with 28 stations and driverless trains on rubber wheels.And they did it with no political experience, less money and in spite of being mocked by the city’s political establishment and ignored by its press. “They thought we were a couple of crazy wingnuts,” laughs Mr Cogswell, 30 “And they hated us because we weren’t part of the club.

But now they can’t be seen to hate us publicly, because of the support we got.”To collect the 18,000 signatures the initiative needed to qualify for consideration by voters, the pair did not hire professional consultants for the normal $3 a signature. A cheque for $500 (pounds 310) falls out and a fancy certificate with a quote from Robert Kennedy, beginning: “Few will have greatness to bend history itself, but each of us can work to change a small portion of events.” Members of the board of judges include Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Ted Danson.This is a pair of ordinary Joes, scruffy and idealistic for sure, who pulled off a coup in elections here last month that sent jaws dropping all across the Pacific North-West. Release them into the dead weekends of mid-January and they could vanish without trace.. A Man from the phone company is in to install a couple of lines. A need-to-get list is pinned to a door with items like “small car”, “fridge” and “duct tape”. Somewhere, beneath all the mess of papers and cardboard boxes, there are signs to stick up in the window. It is hard to fathom that the new occupants of this cramped office just north of central Seattle – Grant Cogswell, a poet (who right now is removing his socks and putting them in his back pockets to dry), and Dick Falkenbury, a taxi driver – are the hottest political story this side of the Rockies.
There are clues, however, like the letter that has come from something called The Gleitsman Foundation in Los Angeles.

February is nomination month for the Academy Awards and this may be just about the last opportunity for films to make their impressions on the judges. But how to fit them all in? It was only days ago that the latest James Bond movie opened here (got to catch the action) as well as the hugely well-reviewed, mega-lengthy Titanic. And not all of us yet have made it to the newest Spielberg must- see, a film by the name of Amistad.”It seems like Christmas week is indicative of this whole year,” says Jeff Blake, president of releasing at Sony Pictures “Every studio has kicked up a notch this year. I’ve never seen this much competition.”All told, the box office takings in the US from the weekend before Christmas until the weekend after New Year are expected to amount to a record-breaking $340m (pounds 200m).What other factors make for this Christmas film-going frenzy? One thought is that while in Britain most of us are confined to the sofa by Christmas Day afternoon in a food- and alcohol-induced haze, in America most of the turkey-gorging has actually gone on five weeks before – on Thanksgiving Day.For the studios there is that little fellow called Oscar.

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