Ron stood in front of the City Council to protest a Hotel improvement project that would have increased year-round tourism in a city desperate for tax revenues. He described himself as a fire fighter. He stated categorically that this project threatened the very spirit and character of the community. He urged the Council to ‘see beyond the dollars’ and return to the job of representing what was so special about our City, namely the protection of our neighborhoods from unwanted traffic. He was not against a hotel/ conference center per se, just the one proposed for this location. He was sure that there was a much more appropriate site just down the road. If the Council had indeed lost touch with the community’s progressive values, that is if they approved this project, then he and his friends would have to step in with a referendum.

Ron commuted over the hill to put out fires in another community, one that could afford to pay higher salaries and provide greater benefits than ours. The higher paying commute job enabled him to leverage his own house to buy other houses, which he rented to University students who could collectively pay far more in rent than the young families struggling to survive in this equity-ravished town. He got health and retirement benefits, and a comfortable salary from his job. But he got rich from renting to students in a city suffering from a chronic housing shortage.

That wealth had afforded Ron’s wife the time to sit on the City Council that, ten years before, had rejected a hotel/ conference center on the site down the road that Ron was now pointing to as an appropriate alternative. In this town, the mere possibility of a ‘better’ project elsewhere had become reason enough to kill the bird in the hand. But Ron had grown tired of such easy sport. He was stretching for a synthesis of ideals and actions. He would first put his foot in his mouth, and then shoot himself in the foot. That would set a new standard for community participation.