The Ballot Box Project

Northeast Shores Development Corporation

Funding Received: 2015
Cleveland, OH
Funding Period: 1 year and 5 months
June 5, 2016

The process of how the councilman of 35+ years conducted business was stagnant. While his heart is in the right place, many times the loudest voices were heard. That influenced the trajectory of the neighborhood. The loud voices are the easiest to hear, they show up, and are persistent. Let’s be honest, they always come out to vote. Then a small change happened in Collinwood that altered how people interacted as a community.

It started with a vote. In Mid-October people were asked what is important to them about the community. Public art projects would then be created around these topics. They care about a lot of things, but to gauge the pulse of the entire community they each voted for their top four issues that would become the focus of art proposals. It felt good, even empowering to know their collective voice would be addressed.

Meanwhile, a wise man in City Hall suggested there should be bike lanes in the neighborhood. The councilman mentioned this during community meetings. “No way,” yelled the loud voices. “We need bike lines,” replied a few others. Outrage on either side existed, but the councilman only heard the overwhelming loud angry no’s. Based on the tone in the meeting the bike advocates feared that their dream of riding their bikes safely would remain a nightmare.

As the months passed, little by little, Collinwood came to expect democracy at public gatherings. They want the will of the majority to be implemented, not the voices of the few. The councilman began to notice this shift around the excitement of democracy.

During the Ballot Box election, people young and old came out in droves to vote on their favorite art proposals for the Ballot Box Project. Democracy rules!

Now it is spring, and the bike lane discussion began once more. “There will be a public meeting to discuss the topic and see what the plans look like,” the Councilman declared. “Ultimately, we want this decision to be what the community wants, and we will decide by a vote. I encourage everyone to take this survey.”

The bike advocates rallied, and organized, making sure that their network of fellow bicyclists filled out the survey and attended the public meetings. They shared their stories, influencing others who were undecided. Those surveys have been tallied; we’re getting designated bike lanes!

As all things, it came with a compromise. A majority of the street will have designated bike lanes, with a small portion of the business district will have sharrows.

“I’m really surprised by this decision,” said Toni, “I was really worried we would have sharrows. They’re useless.” Her sister Anna chimed in, “yeah, the councilman came around. He was even using bike advocate terms.”

One small step for democracy: what will Ballot Box influence next?