Having the ‘facts’ and knowing the real ‘benefits’ are not enough to pass the local historic district ordinance. You need an effective strategy through which common sense, reality and reasonableness can be heard.
This means you need to get your hands dirty. I’m not talking indulging in their level of dirtiness – I mean rolling up your sleeves, breaking some sweat and working hard.
First, what seems a given to an historic preservationist is not obvious to the typical disaffected individual out trying to survive in this economy and busy raising their families. You’ve got to grab their attention. The anti-historic preservation group understands this – they have nothing to stand upon but they know about getting seen. Hence these garish signs proudly showing their distain for historic buildings. I love the new magnetic signs we have but they don’t have vivid color – we will need a lot to be seen and we will need more color. We also need to move it to visible yard signs.
Second, the city councilors are political creatures – they respond by the citizens reaching out to them. Councilor Herzog has shown in his blog that most citizens don’t bother to even approach our local representatives. But Councilors crave feedback. However unreasonable that may trickle in but at least they are getting something We have hundreds and hundreds of historic preservationists who are in our City – let the councilors know you are there by taking the time to write to them. It also helps a lot if you write with respect, back up your statements up with documentation and facts and with solid reason. Believe me they will see the difference and really appreciate the feedback.
Third, we need to spend the time. We have some vocal property-rights radicals but we also have some anti-historic preservation antagonists who have deep pockets. We can cancel them out by attending hearings, meetings – meet and speak with your councilors – go out and pass out flyers – write editorials and yes, just show your support. CEB was very successful by simply passing out flyers, attending city hearings and meetings and being present. It took the sacrifice of time. Thanks to ordinary citizens, the Common Pasture was mostly preserved and the CPA was adopted by the City. Budget? Pennies on the dollar (usually a few out-of-pocket expenses) – no 501 (c)3, no fancy fundraisers, no staff – just dedicated volunteers. That will be far more effective to defeat the big spenders. We can outspend them on time.
All this requires coming out of your comfort zone.
We are represented by hundreds of businesses and homeowners – the anti-historic preservation group are but a few but they will win if we don’t make the effort.