Naturally, Jim Roos spent last Saturday collecting signatures. He’s been working intensively on the eminent domain abuse issue for at least the last nine years, and Saturday was his last chance to get the needed signatures in the First Congressional District. So he spent the day in Florissant, where the annual Valley of the Flowers parade attracted thousands of people.
But despite how tiring that had been, Roos woke at midnight Saturday night, fretting, needing to do something. He decided to join the volunteers who were organizing and boxing the signatures in a room at the Drury Inn on Hampton. He drove there and worked until 8:00 Sunday morning, when the work was done.
By then, the group knew they had the signatures they needed. He says that saying goodbye to Homer Tourkakis, who just lost on appeal his suit against the city of Arnold, was emotional. Tears were shed, tears of relief and happiness.
In fact, those tens of thousands of signatures were so precious to the people involved that they considered paying Wells Fargo to deliver them to the Secretary of State’s office. After the–I don’t know about blood–but certainly sweat and tears required to fill those boxes with signed petitions, they can be excused for feeling a bit paranoid. In the end, though, Wells Fargo didn’t get the business. The group delivered the boxes themselves.
And Jim says he went home Sunday morning and mowed the lawn, grateful to have time to do something so ordinary. Cutting the grass was a pleasure.
He deserves time for (and the fun of?) mowing the grass. The road to sending those signatures to Jeff City began, for him, twenty years ago, the first time he found himself losing property in the city of St.Louis to eminent domain. Now he and the others involved–like Ron Calzone, who has headed the effort statewide–can breathe a little, at least until the group sees whether or not they’ll face much organized opposition from cities that don’t want to lose the option of taking people’s land.
Most of the volunteers are people who’ve faced losing property under eminent domain, but Roos says not all are. One, Cliff Underwood, for example, collected 1,075 signatures–not because he’s ever personally faced losing property but because he simply feels it’s wrong for a city to force someone to sell his land and then give it to a developer so he can make money.
The company that the eminent domain group contracted with to help them collect signatures, National Ballot Access, was impressed with the volunteers the group attracted. NBA staff told Roos they had never seen so many volunteers for a petition initiative.
Roos was still flying high when I talked to him a few minutes ago, alternating between excitement and quavering on the edge of tears. He and the others involved have earned their joy and satisfaction.