May the long time sun shine upon you, all love surround you and the pure light within you, guide your way on "~Incredible String Band

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Keep On Truckin Mama.....

Here we are in the parking lot of a shopping center in Isla Vista C.A . Isla Vista is a small college (UCSB) town very close to Santa Barbara. This whole area seems to be an oasis of kindness and unabashed liberalism in the heart of a very conservative southern california.

We are working a few really, really excellent initiatives this year that we are SO excited about. I mean,these are the kind of initiatives that we are just more than happy to work on and be a part of under any circumstances.

In previous years this has not been the case. The initiatives wanting to get on the ballot have been ones that we would not want ever want to see on the ballot, hence and we did not work them. Whenthis happens we have to rely on other ways to earn a wage.... artwork, CD sales, odd jobs, bartering, luck,..

The first initiative is for Alternative Energy . This would encourage the research/development of alternative fuels in c, essentialy setting up an infrastructure for the industry. In addition, it gives grants /incentives for businesses and individuals to use energy efficient fuels and technology.It does this by putting a tax on oil production and using that to fund the programs. This initiative is just out within the past week or so, though I am shure you will soon be hearing a lot more about it. Hopefully it will be the beginning of similar initiatives all over the U.S, and the start of an alternative fuel industry in this country. If our federal govt refuses to take these issues seriously, then the states must take up the slack. Here is a link to more details about it,

The secound initiative, we are equally as excited about, is a clean water initiative that also goes for conservation, habitat restoration, nature education, establishing greenway coridors between existing parks, it also helps with sustainable community developement by promting "infill" in cities..and so much more. Here is a link with more details,

Basically, what we do is park for the day in the parking lots of various stores around town. We work the initiatives during the day from about 8 to 6. Because we do not work for anyone, and are considered "independant contractors" we get to chose our own hours. In the evenings we camp by the beach. So far, folks have been very receptive to the issues and the authoriites quite nice. That hasn't always been the case though...

Recently, we were in the town of Valencia and people were just so nasty. The Target called the cops twice within two months. This is something we have to deal with every season though, at least three or four times. You see most people, including the officers, do not realize that our right to gather signatures is a matter of free speech, protected by various state constitutions. The law allows us to stand outside the door of any store open to the public, on their property, set up a table, and ask for signatures on proposed state initiatives.

The intresting thing is that, we do not need their permission. This very often causes problems as the stores generally do not want us there. Further, the managers of the stores (usually a Wallmart, Target or other large chain) are ill informed in regaurds to the law. They try everything, lies, intimidation, to get us to leave. In many cases it seems they actually know what the law is but are purposefully told from higher ups to deny it, in hopes that we will be intimidated.

We have always stood our ground though, calmly explaining that we are allowed by law to be there (citing various court cases and codes) and that we will be nice and be certain to not block the doorway. Ocasionaly they will have been through it before with other petitioners, realize that we have called their bluff, and leave us be.Too often though it culminates in the manager calling the cops, and then we have to go through this little dance with managers, cops and sometimes the city attorney.

This can go one of two ways....

If we are lucky, about 75% of the time, the officers are familar with this obscure law, and will inform the managers that we are well with in our rights.The difficulty arises when the officers are either unfamilar with the law, do not believe us, or are too obstinate to look into into it further. They try everything, essentially a more agressive version of what the store managers do, to get us to leave. Often they form what Moss and I have come to term the "huddle", a gathering of several store managers and two or three cops, brainstorming every conceivable way to bust us.

They threaten repeatedly to arrest us, they insult, lie and intimidate us....all the special techniques reserved for use on thieves, rapists, murderes and other criminals. The only difference is, we are none of those things and the law really is on our side in this case.

Eventually the officer wonders why it is they have failed to shake our confidence and why we are so willing to go to jail over the issue. At this point the coyly call the city attorney, are told that we are within the law, and we are inevitably unhandcuffed to continue our work. The funniest thing is watching the smug look on the astonished managers face disapear as they are told we have every right to be there.

Only a few times have we been actually placed in the back of the car in handcuffs, and never have we been officially "read our rights". Others have however and hefty lawsuits were settled against both Walmart and Target for obstructing free speech. If someone ever makes the mistake of actually fully arresting us, we have the names and numbers of lawyers experienced in this area ready to go.

We do try to avoid this at all costs however..

We should be done petitioning in May or June and hopefully will have made enough, combined with our other endevours (Moss's c.d sales and my wool sculptures) to get us through the rest of the year. We may even have enough to finish the water sytem ! Then we can focus the remainder of the year on our art and music.

Yesterday, after getting our computer back from the repair shop, we signed up for Verizons National Access, wireless internet program. We now are able to access the internet inside the bus as we travel !! Previously we relied only on our wifi card and the ocasional free hot spot to get on the net. Now we just insert this little card into a slot on the side of the computer, pay verizon 60 bucks a month, and we can get on the net for unlimted amounts of time at broadband speeds, wherever the signal can be reached !

We were also able to finally find a good bike rack for our bikes and a welder to weld it on the front of the bus for us. We are thrilled to have found him, as we have been looking quite awhile now for someone to weld us some storage bays under the bus, extend our battery box, make a new veggie oil tank and weld some racks on top.

All in good time though...

1 comment:

Mr Blank said...

how does someone get involved with these initiatives work?

I just found your blog, I live in a bus as well, one I got a few months back but because I live on pretty much 500 or less/m I have a hard time doing much with it yet, but once the weather gets nicer out I have tons of plans... I am really enjoying your blog and it is really inspiring me with tons of ideas... thanks!!!