Since I wrote my column about Rocky Mountain Deaf School’s battle with 2090 Coalition, a number of people have reported misconduct or deception by the coalition’s members and petition circulators. Lakewood citizens have written letters about their experiences – including one in which a coalition supporter referred to “stupid deaf people” – and even captured video of a circulator lying in order to obtain a signature.
The behavior of coalition members and supporters has become so egregious that one of their own spoke out at a Lakewood City Council meeting Monday night about his disappointment that the circulators are not accurately representing the petition. Not only that, but coalition members and petition circulators have resorted to calling the police on RMDS supporters who are peacefully holding signs that ask people to educate themselves about the facts before signing the petition.
A Lakewood resident with no connection to the issue says he was subjected to blatant prejudicial, bigoted statements by a coalition member. Daryl Hageman told us, “I don’t have a dog in this fight, so to speak, as I don’t live in the neighborhood, nor do I have a hearing disabled child.” But after his recent encounter with a 2090 Coalition member, he felt he had to speak out through an open letter to the group.
He posted the following on 2090 Coalition’s Facebook page:
“Here are some facts that your organization seems to forget and gloss over. First, the property belongs to and is exclusively owned by Jefferson County Public Schools. It was never intended to nor was it ever designated to be a park, in fact the school district was not required to submit for a rezoning request, but did so out of respect to the community. Therefore, the decision to pass this property legally to another organization, that supports an underserved group, is an outstanding decision.
“On Sunday afternoon, I had an unfortunate run in with one of your apparently more vocal proponents. His comments made at the local Safeway, with regard to a group of 4 deaf people in the parking lot, who were not protesting but simply communicating amongst each other, was defamatory and apparently represents your Coalitions view of the deaf community. His comments were as follows: “What the hell are all those deaf people out there protesting? I bet their out there protesting because we just pissed them off, and won our hearing in front of the city council.” In fact your organization had LOST their protest.
“He proceeded to disparage the deaf people, making very specific and negative comments with regard to deaf people. After his triad continued for more than 5 minutes, I finally had to confront him. At which point I commented that it was obvious he didn’t know anyone who was deaf, nor did he have a child that was hearing impaired. He continued to reference your organization and made comments that they didn’t want stupid deaf people in their neighborhood, and that he was and had participated in a petition campaign to stop them making his park into a school for “STUPID DEAF PEOPLE,” because he didn’t want them in his neighborhood. He offered of allow a couple of people in line with him to “sign our petition.”
“Honestly, I had never heard of your organization, but immediately began researching it. Based on a review of your website and the obvious bias against the hearing impaired individuals, I will do everything I can to ensure that the school is built. If this individual was representative of your organization, which I believe to be the case after reviewing much of the published documentation, including your website, your organization is simply discriminatory against the hearing disabled. I have never been politically active, on issues of this nature, however, I will oppose all attempts by your organization to reverse the decison by the Lakewood City Council.”
Members of Families for Rocky Mountain Deaf School also have received numerous complaints from Lakewood residents about petition circulators using deceptive practices to trick voters into signing the petition, such as telling them to support teachers by signing, but the most damning evidence comes in the form of a video shot earlier today.
(0:26) Citizen: For the school for the deaf?
(0:30) Circulator: … prevent the … oh, just read it for yourself.
(0:35) Citizen: It’s … prevent the building, well, I’d like to know what they’re going to take out on taxes.
(0:42) Circulator: I don’t know, it’s going to cost one hundred … 15 million dollars of corporate money.
(0:48) Citizen: We’ll see ya
(0:49) Circulator: Well, do you want to pay 13 million dollars?
(0:50) Citizen: No, no, I don’t.
(0:51) Circulator: Well, if you don’t want to pay it, then sign it.
All these reports and documented incidents demonstrate that 2090 Coalition is making a mockery of the democratic process and abusing the trustingness of Lakewood voters.
In light of this attitude toward RMDS supporters and the questionable tactics being used in this petition drive, it is crucial that we all urge Lakewood voters to educate themselves and do their research before signing any petition. Please help raise awareness and educate voters by sharing my column, Families for Rocky Mountain Deaf School’s Facebook page and the website 2090coalitionfacts.com. Other resources to share include the Lakewood mayor’s article in his city’s newsletter and a page set up by the city of Lakewood to explain the rezoning issue.
Last, but not least, please urge anyone who has had an encounter with a 2090 Coalition member, supporter or petition circulator to post their story here for the record.