By R.M. Grossblatt
At 9 a.m. Tuesday, the phone starting ringing. I read “American Grant” on the caller ID.
My daughter, a first-year nursing student at Emory, is applying for grants, so I picked it up. “Hello … hello,” I said, but nobody answered.
Again the phone rang with the same ID, and again no answer. Maybe the American Grant committee had good news for us, I thought. But when I called back, a recording announced, “This is not a working number.”
When the phone rang again, I didn’t intend to pick it up, but I saw that the ID was a 404 number. So I lifted the receiver and heard an unusual message: “Our county precinct records show that you may not have voted yet.”
It was Nov. 3, voting day in Toco Hills, Lakeside and the surrounding area to decide whether LaVista Hills should be incorporated as a new city. Obviously those who had fought for it, holding meetings, sending out emails and urging everyone to vote, were trying their best to get their message out. How they knew that I hadn’t voted yet, I had no idea. Was my vote so important?
I definitely intended to vote, but I had a busy day ahead: a luncheon with two dear friends, an appointment at Temima High School, another one at Torah Day and a class at night. Somehow I would get to the polls, but I had a big surprise once I got there.
At Broadway Cafe, Faye Esral, Estelle Feldman and I were eating warm, cheesy entrees and catching up on happenings in Israel, where Estelle and her husband, Rabbi Emanuel Feldman, rabbi emeritus of Congregation Beth Jacob, reside. She told us how everyone is cautious on the streets of Israel because of the random attacks on individuals by terrorists. Thankfully, some of those attacks are being thwarted — but not all.
Then Faye and I started talking about that day’s election — a much lighter topic but on our minds. Perry Brickman, working on his computer behind us (because his Internet connection was down at home), turned around and joined our conversation on the pros and cons of incorporation.
Faye shared that her husband, Abe, thought a new city would mean new taxes.
Perry nodded and then asked, “Would you pay extra to get better security?”
“I would,” I answered, knowing that we need increased policing in our neighborhood.
Lunch was over, and I drove to my first appointment at 2:45 and my second at 3:30. Around 4:30, I walked into the precinct, signed my name and address, showed my driver’s license, and was handed the yellow voting card.
Pushing the plastic card into the slot, I always get this patriotic feeling of pride in our democratic system. This time was no exception. I could have sung, “G-d bless America, land that I love.”
Thankfully, I didn’t, but my adrenaline was flowing. Here was the chance to vote on a new city called LaVista Hills and get the benefits that would come with it.
I knew that the ballot had only two questions: one a bill on ethics and the other on incorporation. After I punched the computer in favor of the bill, I was directed to cast my ballot.
How could that be? I never voted for incorporation.
I clicked back to the previous page to see if I missed the question about LaVista Hills, but it wasn’t there.
“What happened to the question on cityhood?” I called out, probably too loudly, coming from a voting booth.
An attendant giving out the voting cards pointed to a map on the wall and said, “You’re probably not in the district to vote on it.”
“Yes, I am,” I protested. “Now what should I do?”
“Cast your ballot, then look at the map,” he said.
In the middle of voting, I had no choice. So I cast my ballot on the one question I answered — important but not the one I came for. When I looked at the map, I saw that my apartment on Briarvista Way was definitely inside the proposed city, but Stephens Drive, where I lived for 36 years and moved from three years ago, wasn’t.
I told the polling agent that my address, the one on my license, was in the proposed area. He took my license and waved it across a machine. “You’re registered on Stephens Drive,” he told me. I had changed the address on my license but not on my voter registration.
So another attendant, listening as everyone else was in that room, handed me a new form. I changed my address, but it was too late for this election. I walked out of the polling place with my head down.
Although it was my fault, I couldn’t vote for cityhood. After all the hype in the past year, that was disappointing.
When I got home, I retrieved five calls from voice mail urging me to vote. Two of them came from American Grant — yes, unfortunately, it wasn’t a grant for my daughter for college. The others came from “Advisor,” announcing, “You have only until 7 p.m. to vote at your regular precinct.”
At 7 p.m., before attending class, I started writing this article, realizing that those on Stephens Drive and other streets nearby were not only left out of voting, but also were left out of the boundaries that hold our community together. And even though I’m no longer living on Stephens Drive, I intended to fight for its inclusion once we became LaVista Hills.
At midnight I finished the article and clicked on the news. Over 13,000 people voted in our area; half were for and half against incorporation. Those against it won by 136 votes, a small number. We weren’t going to be LaVista Hills. Now I understood why I received so many phone calls that day.
G-d bless America, Israel and the rest of world because we all count more than we think.