This story is the fourth installment in a series, read the first one here.
I hooked up with Peg Whiting at the DDA meeting for the purpose of contributing to the organizing of Art at Your Feet. Andrea Cueto informed me there was going to be an AAYF meeting immediately after the first FoHB meeting at the Brown’s, Peg lived next door and Andrea and I walked over after meeting number one. Andrea knocked on Peg’s door and Peg walked out of the door, closing it behind her on her way to greet us between the house and the driveway. It didn’t look like Peg was planning a meeting to me. Chris Burtle showed up and we cemented a date for the next meeting, I mean the first meeting, and a date for the actual event right there in the driveway, after which I went on my way.
The first AAYF meeting turned out to be a day or two before the second FoHB committee meeting. It didn’t seem to matter what the suggestions were for creating revenue for the event, there were no shortage of reasons why we couldn’t do any of it, it was loud and clear they didn’t want anything to do with self-sustaining the event. How could I blame them when the DDA already offered to fund it, it was certainly easier that way.
I still signed up for tasks to help out the AAYF event, one was for advertising, one was to design flyers and another was to approach business owner’s downtown and request they stay open for the event. Chris Burtle suggested I ask Darlene Southward for an advertising list, she supposedly had in her possession – a lengthy list of all the free advertising venues in the area. I made this request of Darlene at the next FoHB meeting; her reply was somebody already approached her about it. Twice after that I reminded her I was still looking for the list, but she – just – couldn’t – find – the – time to get it to me.
Two weeks later I headed back to Peg’s for the second get together, this time I couldn’t make it at the scheduled start time; I think I got there 30 minutes later. To my surprise Darlene was sitting in; she was there offering her expertise. I thought the two groups were predominately separate until I eventually learned who was who. Darlene was telling the group how woefully far behind they were with advertising, the much requested advertising list was given to Chris Burtle and my advertising task was reassigned. I never laid eyes on the list.
After being informed Darlene was taking the job of approaching store owners, I reminded them that I signed up for that, it was on my to-do list. Chris Burtle looked at me and asked, “Would it hurt if more than one person went to talk them, especially if it was from someone they knew?” Yeah well, given my experiences with Darlene, that would’ve meant some kind of coordination would be in order, and it wasn’t too likely that was going to happen. I also thought about the businesses feeling badgered, not knowing how busy they are and how much of a disruption it would be to them…I just shrugged, I didn’t know how much it would hurt because it really all depended. I did figure resigning the task to Darlene wouldn’t really hurt.
I pulled out my draft flyer and showed it to the group, and I passed it around for comments and suggestions. Somebody didn’t like the pictures I chose (from last year’s event I had to source, they had to be redone anyway for print quality purposes). Nancy Haefner was to get new pictures to me. They weren’t having Artist demonstrations this year and the contact information was no longer correct. Someone was writing down the all the changes needed. Darlene then advised the group that the size was wrong, it was a full sheet of paper and store owners don’t want to hang in their windows or make counter space for flyers anymore. Darlene stated a 1/4 of the size would be more appropriate, and perhaps cardstock was be a better choice too. Darlene continued…if you want printed material, the Advance will design and print flyers as a free service. “That’s cool” I said to Darlene, “but you’re probably going to have to get right on it.” Knowing design, like art is subjective and not knowing how quickly the Advance could fit the job into their schedule. It was also a task Peg Whiting wanted done ASAP. It was also duly noted from Darlene that printed marketing material has gone by the wayside anyway, you know, with the computer age and all…Okay, okay, I got it.
Only the second meeting – and I was effectively relieved of all my tasks. Clearly there was some sort of vendetta against me and Darlene Southward was a major instigator, possibly at the helm…I didn’t have any details, I just saw the game being played and didn’t want it to further impact the dynamics of the group so I bowed out of the AAYF committee. I called Peg later to let her know my decision and why, and added I would be happy to help out behind the scenes…if she chose to call on me.
Weeks passed and I got a call from Peg, she was still waiting on the flyers.
I had no idea, there was no countering argument at the meeting to keep the flyers, I didn’t get an email for the updates and I didn’t get the new group of pictures I was supposed to use. This was all pretty strange to me. Peg said she wasn’t in agreement with Darlene, she wasn’t very computer literate and appreciated hard copies and would still like to have them. I got right back to work, made a couple of calls and sent a couple of emails to the people who were supposed to get me the new information and I hustled getting the flyer design completed, I sent a copy to the Village Office and asked if they could print off 50 copies for the AAYF group, went down and picked them up from the office and delivered them to Peg’s house. Here’s the final version.
I didn’t get into the story where Andrea Cueto showed up at my door many weeks after that with the infamous advertising list in hand, asking for my help then. I didn’t even get into volunteering to help the grade five students plant the flower pots downtown, getting nothing but attitude, I’ve briefly written about it before. I didn’t get into the damage control Kay Brown was trying to do with fudge, flowers and a lunch date, or trying to pay me for “saving her life” (her words) with the five documents I partially compiled for her. I didn’t even get into how appalled the f-troop was when I answered a question to the Michigan Main Street staff that included my interest in the director position (how dare I take initiative and voice my interest), it wasn’t the underground way. None of them even had the courage or decency to tell me if they in fact thought I blundered but they could demonize me behind my back – that was the underground way. I haven’t even told the story of a demeaning email sent to me by A. Ray Jones when I prepared a presentation outline to foster discussion and creativity from the group for the final hoop MMS was making them jump to gain their selected status.
But I will tell you this, the only person that said anything about what they were doing was Sandy Meeks, she did her own analysis and spoke in defense of what was right. I’m telling you this because she’s on the Economic Restructuring Committee and the only one who cares. You’ve got the f-troopers over there operating the ER Committee whose primary focus should be business retention. I’d be laughing if it wasn’t so serious. If they actually cared about the community, and if they were smart, they would have been focusing on resident retention too, instead of running them out-of-town. It’s the residents that generally step up to become business owners and it’s the taxpayers who are allowing this community to function…or even exist. We need all the taxpayers we can get.
One might be inclined to think I was nit-picking, especially if you were to view each incident separately. The truth is, it’s a pattern – all of it combined paints a pretty ugly picture for our community. And that’s just one person’s story, it’s never about just one. The people you thought were leaders in the community are nothing more than shysters, pretending to care about community. They have been operating a coalition to protect their power base, increase their influence and insure protection for exclusive decision-making. It’s all about control now isn’t it?
The main reason I’ve written a more detailed account in this series was to clarify and reinforce what I’ve been saying all along…Blissfield, we have a problem.
It would be a mistake assuming this coordinated effort was instantaneously designed to nullify me. The only information they knew for sure about me was what I looked like. Their tactics were honed, they’ve used them before, there have been many more victims before me and there will be many more after, unless they lose the power they have gained surreptitiously.
Most targets of the f-troop have either withdrawn or quietly left town…the f-troop pats themselves on the back, impervious to the damage that continues to decay the community. Wouldn’t you think victims of arrogance, ostracization and sabotage would warn somebody else, or tell two friends, then they would tell two friends, and so on, and so on?
“To go against the dominate thinking of your friends, of most of the people you see every day, is perhaps the most difficult act of heroism you can perform.” ~ Theodore H. White
Image: Idea go / FreeDigitalPhotos.net