Carrying and Planting the Seeds

San Diego Review April 1, 1996

Carrying and Planting the Seeds

By Dwayne Hunn

Maturing  baby boomers…   Wouldn’t be too unusual if you knew a few who dedicated  their growing  years to intense  political involvement.  It would be fairly unusual, however, to find a core of   boomers  who look back on  years of  intense work with a  political leader  and still carry him in the highest regard.  Time, history and  subsequent knowledge  tarnishes traditional political giants.

Ed Koupal, People’s Lobby founder,  was not  traditional, and time hasn’t tarnished the memories of those who worked with or learned about him.

Koupal believed in the initiative so  deeply  that 20 years ago  he convinced two boomers  to take the seeds he sowed  in their heads onto an old  yellow school  bus and   plant them  along the  back roads of America  until they sprouted  in a Senate Judiciary hearing room.

Author David Schmidt, whose Citizen Lawmakers, The Ballot Initiative Revolution, this year went into its second printing, studied and learned about the Koupals’ People’s Lobby by living with  initiative gardeners John Forester and Roger Telschow.  “Roger  and John were constantly telling stories about Ed.  Referring to him as a genius who knew how to put  politicians on the run…  Ed was the center piece of the book.  It started with the  conclusion that Ed and Joyce Koupal and the Lobby revived the initiative process and supported that conclusion with lots of evidence.”

A book can tell you some of a  man’s deeds, but working next to him increases the odds  that his green thumb or magic madness might rub off.   John Forester is a broker now where he “must stay  up on current affairs,” reading  at least three newspapers a day.  It’s a habit he watched Ed and Joyce practice daily, one that rubbed off.  “My People’s Lobby training and thinking is still the same.  I’m still a Koupal guerrilaist, “ Forester says in broker’s gear..

John isn’t  as political as he and Roger were yellow bussing through  the states and setting in motion the 1977 Senate Judiciary hearing on  implementing a National Initiative.  But he still enjoys dispensing  “Koupalisms”  learned during People’s Lobby crusades.   Weeks ago a Coloradan  called,  frantically explaining how  some of his state legislators  were, “Trying to take the initiative away.  Trying to make it so the only way an initiative can pass is with a super majority vote, like 75%.”

John rattled off how they might organize political opposition,  including reaping high praise upon the  Anti-Initiative Legislators.  “Maybe  announce that since  they are such  great legislators, your people will be proposing that they  need a  75% majority for re-election.  Legislators  as outstanding as they are  should have no objection to  seeking election under that process. ”

“You know,”  John continued, “I was just using  Ed’s philosophy that people have total  power.  These guys are nothing.  I just did what Ed would do.  I just figured how to cut them down to size, which is what Ed taught us, isn’t it?”

As a District of Columbia resident,  John may soon  plug into an initiative campaign with  more than just phone advice.   In the 70’s Roger and John spent 18 months amending the Washington DC home rule charter and passing the bill that established their Initiative, Referendum and Recall process.  Now as poverty and crime  pregnant DC flounders along  without  the right to choose a federal representative, and  the Federal Control Board administers the bankrupt city,  Republicans  and Democrats offer proposals ranging from spending less to making DC a tax free zone.

John and some boomers think DC’s best choice  is aborting the District and returning it to Maryland.   Will Congress propose that?  If not,  these boomers may soon birth an initiative delivering DC citizens choice — thanks to the initiative of a one-time used car salesman and jazz band leader  who had two boomers carry initiative seeds east to someday give the nation direct  choice.


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