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2004 Election

About Us

Upper Arlington Progressive Action (UAPA) is a grassroots political action committee based in Upper Arlington, a conservative suburb of Columbus, Ohio. UAPA supports Democratic and progressive candidates and causes, and is entirely funded by donations from supporters. UAPA is run and governed solely by volunteers.
Upper Arlington Progressive Action gives Democratic and progressive voters an identity, voice and vehicle for action. UAPA members advocate for effective and efficient government that truly serves the needs of its people.

Chicago Tribune 2004

The Other Paper 2004: Arlington's Kerry backers impress even Republicans

The Other Paper

August 26 - Sept 1, 2004

By Jordan Gentile

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The most important moments in life come down to the smallest details. Like, say, noticing a bumper sticker.

On a rainy day last March, Upper Arlington resident Melissa Hedden noticed a rather unusual thing while she drove her children home from school. The car in front of her brandished a sticker with the cryptic acronym, "ABB."

For just a moment, her hopes soared. She followed the car into its driveway and tentatively introduced herself to the driver.

"I said, `I'm not stalking you, but I want to know: Does that sticker mean Anybody but Bush?"'

Yes, the woman replied, and a movement was born.

Hedden had finally found a kindred spirit in Republican-dominated Upper Arlington. When her new friend introduced her to a couple like-minded residents, they collectively laid the groundwork for a grassroots campaign on behalf of John Kerry that has drawn unexpected support and intense hostility from the community.

Even after Bush-Cheney yard signs were distributed in Upper Arlington this week, Kerry's signs have the upper hand by about a 3-2 ratio. Meanwhile, UA for Kerry meetings have been attended by hundreds of people at a time. All of this has caused some measure of surprise, not least from the organization's founders.

When the group was started, Hedden said, "We looked at each other and thought, `OK, is this just going to be us and our families?' "

Six hundred members later, she added, "We've been overwhelmed by the depth of the support."

While few seriously expect UA for Kerry to threaten President Bush's dominance in Upper Arlington, the group's successalong with its brash tactics-has grabbed headlines in both the local and national press.

Air America, the liberal radio network, recently broadcast a piece about the group. And online columnists and assorted bloggers have pointed to the phenomenon as proof that the upper-crust suburbs of redstate America are turning ever so gradually blue.

Tim Rankin, a city council member and president of the UA Republican Club, dismisses all of this as nonsense.

The Kerry group, he said, "likes to wear a bunch of T-shirts and write a bunch of letters to the editor. That doesn't mean their support is growing."

But Priscilla Mead, a former Republican mayor of Upper Arlington and state legislator, disagreed. Many independents and young Democrats have moved to UA, she said. For that matter, the Republican Party's positions on social issues such as abortion and gun control no longer play as well with the suburban population as a whole.

This disaffection, Mead said, has been brilliantly exploited by UA for Kerry.

"I don't recall any effort like this before," she said. "It's fun and active and spontaneous, and it's coming from knowledgeable people whose party has been out of power, so they're hungry."

"The Bush campaign," she added, "seems to be run primarily from Washington, and that lack of spontaneity and grass-roots enthusiasm is evident."

Upper Arlington's Kerry supporters certainly got a jumpstart on the local Bushies earlier this year-beginning with the contentious matter of political yard signs.

Last spring, many residents were surprised-and some were outright angry-to see Kerry advertisements popping up all over Upper Arlington's well-manicured lawns. The sight was all the more dramatic because Bush supporters, observing a law restricting political ads that was no longer in effect, had not planted any signs of their own.

The dominant political party had been beaten to the punch, and resentment flourished. Many pro-Kerry signs have been uprooted and stolen, and Hedden said UA for Kerry members have been the victims of vandalism and verbal abuse.

Republicans say there's little proof that Bush supporters are behind such activities.

In one case, however, the accusation panned out: Mitch Banchefsky, a prominent Republican attorney, admitted to police last month that he directed his daughter to swipe a sign from a Kerry activist's yard.

More animosity would follow. During the Upper Arlington Independence Day parade, about 100 Kerry supporters-fully clad in "UA for John Kerry" T-shirtsgathered on a lawn along the parade route community. They were hard to ignore, and the gesture ruffled a lot of feathers.

"This blatant abuse of a well-known and renowned non-partisan event held in honor of our country," resident Michael G. Mimnaugh wrote in a letter to the Upper Arlington News, "was offensive and unnecessary."

Hedden said she regrets the hard feelings between UA for Kerry and some elements of the community. She said the members of her group had no intention of offending anyone.

On the other hand, she said, the strategy they've used to attract attention was born of necessity.

Democrats start with an inherent disadvantage in Upper Arlington. If Kerry supporters hadn't gone to extra lengths to make themselves visible, she said, many likeminded citizens might have been too intimidated by the Republican majority to speak out and become active in the campaign.

"There's a strong presence of progressive voters in Upper Arlington," Hedden added. "Now people know it."

Columbus Dispatch 2004: Lawyer in hot water over removal of Kerry sign


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After having two other John Kerry signs stolen from her yard - the first thanks to lawyer Mitchell H. Banchefsky - Ann Boucher of Columbus made her own.

Mitchell H. Banchefsky doesn't seem like someone who would lead a young person astray.

Besides being a partner in the Downtown law firm of Schottenstein Zox & Dunn, Banchefsky, 51, is a part-time law director for New Albany and Marble Cliff, and a member of the Ohio Crime Victims Compensation Fund board.

But then, it is an election year.

Yesterday, Banchefsky acknowledged to The Dispatch that he told his 13-year-old daughter last month to filch a John Kerry campaign sign from the yard of Ann Boucher, of Clearview Avenue, on the Northwest Side.

Two people witnessed the theft and gave Boucher the license plate number of the suspect's vehicle, which Columbus police traced to Banchefsky.

He said he was driving with his daughter when he spotted the Kerry sign at the corner of Clearview and W North Broadway. He stopped and asked her to grab it, which she did, Banchefsky said.

He was more irritated that the sign was too close to W North Broadway - in the public right of way - Banchefsky said, than he was that it supported the Democratic presidential candidate. A registered. Republican, he is an avid supporter of President Bush.

"Most people don't realize you can't put signs in the right of way," Banchefsky said.

"I'm not using that as an excuse. It was an exercise in bad judgment on my part. I should have called the Columbus code-enforcement people and had them remove it."

Boucher, who spoke twice with Banchefsky after the incident, was skeptical of his right-of-way argument. The sign was at least 12-feet from North Broadway, she said, and well within her property.

"And even if it was in the right of way, what right does he have to take it down?" she said. "It sounds like vigilantism. This is about my First Amendment right of freedom of speech.

"This was a Bush-Kerry thing, not a right-of-way thing."

Banchefsky said he is sensitive to the right-of-way issue because a Bush sign had been removed from his yard, possibly because of right-of-way concerns.

Banchefsky, who sent Boucher a $10 check for the sign, said, "This is being blown out of proportion. I did it on impulse."
Columbus City Prosecutor Steve McIntosh said he would not pursue the case unless Boucher files a complaint.

Boucher said she will not do that because she also would have to file a complaint against Banchefsky's daughter.

Instead, she plans to file an administrative complaint against Banchefsky with the Ohio Supreme Court's disciplinary councel, which investigates allegations against lawyers.

Since the July 17 incident, a second Kerry sign has been stolen from Boucher's yard.

The determined Kerry supporter has installed a third sign that she made herself. "I'll keep replacing them," she said.

The whole situation is unfortunate, said the mayor of Dublin, where Banchefsky handled zoning and development issues until about a year ago.

"The political process is to allow everyone to run for office and to allow them to tell people about that," Mayor Marilee Chinnici-Zuercher said.

Banchefsky showed bad judgement, but his part-time job is secure in New Albany, Mayor Nancy Ferguson said last night.

Ferguson, an attorney, couldn't say if Banchefsky had taken the law into his own hands by having his daughter remove the sign. "I would have to think about that," she said.

There are better way to get young people involved in politics, New Albany Council Member Colleen Briscoe said.

"I would not pull out yard signs, and I wouldn't be having my daughter do it," Briscoe said. "What was he thinking?"

UA News 2004: Suburbs' law director had daughter swipe Kerry sign

Upper Arlington News

August 8, 2004

By Aaron Marshall

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"It was a lapse in judgment": This makeshift sign replaces one Mitch Banchefsky drove off with last month.

A tip for the politically active: If you plan to yank someone else's election signs out of the ground, don't use a "sea foam" green SUV with a vanity plate as your getaway car.

A prominent Republican attorney, who works as the law director for both New Albany and Marble Cliff and also is a Dublin prosecutor, learned that lesson the hard way last month.

Mitch Banchefsky, a partner in the Columbus firm of Schottenstein, Zox & Dunn, has admitted to directing his daughter to take a "UA for John Kerry" sign from the side yard of Clearview Avenue resident Ann Boucher, according to a police report filed on the incident.

Driving his distinctive "sea foam" SUV with the license plate OLDTOYS, Banchefsky stopped in eastbound traffic on West North Broadway around noon on July 17, according to the report. A passenger then jumped out and took the sign, which sat between the road and a fence in Boucher's yard, the report said.

Banchefsky told the reporting officer, "Yes, I did tell my daughter to remove the sign," adding, "That was the only sign we stole," the report said.

During a brief interview Tuesday, Banchefsky called his role in the sign swiping "a lapse in judgment." He added that he believed the Kerry sign "was clearly in the public right-of-way" but acknowledged, "that is not the point."

"I should have called Columbus code enforcement and had them do it," he said. Banchefsky said he paid Boucher $10 to compensate her for the sign.

The Schottenstein, Zox & Dunn website said Banchefsky's practice focuses on municipal and governmental law, including "police issues" and "right-of-way ordinances."

Carlo LoParo, spokesman for Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell, said citizens shouldn't remove political signseven if they appear to be illegally placed in the public right-of-way.

"Signs are considered property of the campaign, and anyone not working on behalf of the correct municipality or Ohio Department of Transportation taking one down can be charged by the campaign for destruction of property," LoParo said.

Boucher, a Democratic central committee member, said the removal of her sign at the direction of a suburban official is troubling.

"Yeah, it's just a sign, but to me it's representing the foundation of this country," she said. "When you start denying people their right to speak up, where are we headed?"

Boucher said the yard sign, while outside of her fence line, is still on her property thanks to a quirk in her property deed.
Said Banchefsky: "I doubt that very much."

Boucher said she won't pursue criminal charges because she would have to press them against the younger Banchefsky and then charge her father as an accomplice.

Boucher said Banchefsky told her that his daughter is 13 years old. Banchefsky declined to discuss his daughter during his interview.

However, Boucher is planning to file an ethics complaint with the Ohio Supreme Court's disciplinary counsel against the elder Banchefsky.

"The fact that he is a city attorney makes this a little bit different," she said. "He's sworn to uphold the law, so I thought disciplinary action would be more prudent."

Boucher said the sign she lost July 17 is just one of three that have come up missing in recent weeks. Early this week, she was displaying a homemade Kerry sign, made with a black trash bag as she waited for her fourth "UA for John Kerry" sign to arrive.

"If I don't have a sign of some kind up, I feel like they have won," she said.

ThisWeek News 2004: Arlington will crack down on theft of political signs

Arlington will crack down on theft of political signs

Thursday, August 19, 2004

ThisWeek Staff Writer

With the campaign season heating up as the fall election approaches, theft and destruction of political signs has become a major issue, as evidenced by the growing number of residents who are reporting such incidents to police.

"We're hoping to get the message across that as we're coming into the political season, there are numerous candidate signs and they're being taken," said Upper Arlington Police Chief Dee Holcomb.

Holcomb on Aug. 9 met with representatives from UA for Kerry, a local group of residents that is supporting the Democratic presidential ticket.

In an Aug. 2 letter to city officials, the group urged Holcomb to speak out about sign stealing, which they claim "is just part of the ongoing harassment our supporters are enduring," as the Aug. 2 letter states. "Bumper stickers have been ripped from cars, windshields on three cars bearing the bumper stickers have been damaged, at least one car has been keyed, and just this weekend, a car fender bearing a UA for Kerry bumper sticker was bashed in."

The letter claims that these acts of vandalism have taken place "simply because we are exercising our first amendment rights and providing an alternative point of view traditionally not seen in Upper Arlington."

UA for Kerry representatives also claim in the letter that when members attempted to report missing signs to police in the past few weeks, officers said they had been instructed not to take reports of stolen signs but to simply make a note of the incidents.

Holcomb said the department has since altered its policy in light of the increasing number of UA for Kerry signs that have been reported stolen.

"At my direction, if somebody was coming in and saying their sign was stolen, we weren't taking reports because we get so many of them," he said. "But because they were targeting a particular group, we changed that."

Brandon Road resident Janie Hastie reported to police that two UA For Kerry signs were stolen from her home on July 31. Hastie said she believes the signs were stolen overnight.

When she discovered the signs missing, "I wasn't shocked, I was disappointed," she said. "Down the street the same thing had happened. It's happening all over town."

UA for Kerry co-founding member Jody Scarbrough said she is encouraged that Holcomb agreed to meet with the group to address the sign theft problem.

"We had encouraged him (to speak out) because the problem is huge. We have had well over 100 signs stolen now," she said. "It's beyond a juvenile prank. It appears an organized and concerted effort. We're trying to get people to take it more seriously."

The sign theft problem has caused UA for Kerry members to be inventive about how they display their signs, Scarbrough said.

"We have some that are hoisted in trees," she said. "We have one man who had his UA for Kerry sign stolen and he put a child-size easel out with a dry erase board saying, 'This was the site of my first UA For Kerry sign.'"

Scarbrough said she is concerned that the sign theft problem will overshadow UA for Kerry's message.

"We'd love it if we could have a discussion about the issues and the platforms of the candidates," she said.

City Councilman Tim Rankin, who serves as president of the recently formed Upper Arlington Republican Club, said the UA for Kerry signs may have been stolen by overzealous opponents.

"If people are taking signs, it's wrong," he said. "If I learn that anyone I know is engaging in taking signs, we will remove them from the club."

Rankin added, however, that he has heard numerous complaints from residents that the UA for Kerry signs were posted too soon and that many of the signs are displayed improperly.

"Signs have never been out this early before. They've had signs out for months now," Rankin said. "The vast majority of signs that I've seen are in the right of way."

Scarbrough said UA for Kerry's organizers have sent out newsletters and e-mails to 500 members with clear guidelines about how signs are to be displayed and emphasizing that they should not be in the public right of way. The guidelines are also on the group's Web site, she said.

Scarbrough added that she often sees Bush-Cheney signs that are in the public right of way.

"There's a Bush-Cheney sign here that is two inches from the sidewalk," she said, referring to her neighborhood. "What do I do about that? Do I knock on the door of the homeowner and tell them it has to be five feet from the sidewalk?"

The city of Upper Arlington recently updated its political sign ordinance to be consistent with Ohio Revised Code, said city attorney Jeanine Amid.

"The city regulates the placement of signs, where they're placed in a yard, that they not be in the city's right of way," she said. "We regulate the duration of the sign. For instance, if it becomes more like litter (due to deterioration) than a sign. We do not regulate how long you can keep up a sign with a political message."

Political sign guidelines specify that the city is non-partisan and does not endorse candidates, Amid said.

"We've had calls questioning the legality" of the UA for Kerry signs, she said. "We've informed them that we cannot regulate the verbiage on the sign but directed them to the Ohio Elections Commission."

Susan Truitt, another UA for Kerry representative, said the group is trying to get the word out that the group is independent and not affiliated with any government body or the Kerry campaign.

"It wasn't our intent to imply that all of Upper Arlington was for Kerry," Truitt said. "We try in our outreach to clarify that we're just a group of people who have gotten together. There are signs that say 'Teachers for Kerry' and 'Firefighters for Kerry.' That doesn't mean every teacher is for Kerry or every firefighter is for Kerry. It merely indicates that there's a group of people who are for Kerry."

Truitt said UA for Kerry encourages members to take their signs, which are an out-of-pocket expense and run $10-$15, in at night to avoid theft. The city is also encouraging residents to place their names on political signs so they can be recovered if stolen.

Holcomb stressed that offenders who steal signs will be prosecuted.

"This is a criminal offense. This is a theft offense. It is a first-degree misdemeanor. There are other charges that could come of that, because the person is trespassing on the property of another," he said. "We're treating these cases just as if someone went in and stole $500... We're taking a very serious look at it."

DailyKos 2004: Ohio Suburbs, One Town's Inspiring Story

Ohio Suburbs, One Town's Inspiring Story

Wed Oct 20, 2004 at 09:45:47 AM PST

Upper Arlington is an upper class suburb of Columbus, Ohio, well known locally as a city of "wide lawns and narrow minds". "Uppity Arlington" as it is sometimes called outside the city borders, would realistically be described as a traditional, mostly white, fully Republican town of 34,000 with great schools and better real estate values! Walter O'Dell, CEO of Diebold has a residence here.

The two local issues on the ballot are: the School Levy (every 2-4 years like clockwork) and issue 65 which comes down to whether a developer can build 15 $700K homes on the last available development lot in the city or whether he must build 11 $1,000,000+ homes on the same acreage.

In previous Presidential Election cycles to see a sign supporting a democratic candidate would have been an anomaly. This year it's been quite different. Here's what happened . . .

Thanks Local Republicans for the Free Publicity

Organized early and by taking advantage of the new local political signage rules "UA For Kerry" began placing a few yard signs way back in July. The group of about 10 at the time had a large sign at the traditional 4th of July parade causing quite a stir in the local suburban newspapers. When a member of the mostly Republican City Council called it "uncivilized to have any political forum at our beloved parade when we should all be supporting our troops" the battle of Letters to the Editor was off and running. The Republican side of the opinions ranged from outrage at violating the "spirit of our city's traditional values" by having a "left wing political group using our parade for advertising for a political candidate whom Upper Arlington would never support" to passionate discussions of how the name "UA For Kerry" implied that everyone in Upper Arlington was for Kerry and that the city should take legal action immediately to stop it. A complaint to the Ohio Elections Commission filed in August by a UA resident, who called the name "inflammatory campaign literature," was dismissed

Outrage was everywhere. Several residents argued before City Council that the placement of yard signs so early in a campaign was illegal and that Council should order the signs taken down. Having historically never been seriously challenged by any local organized activism with a dissenting point of view, at first the mostly Republican City Council stumbled, appearing unaware that it was they themselves who had in fact passed a new city ordinance just two years before allowing the early placement of yard signs with political messages. At this point, there were about 100 yard signs up in Upper Arlington. All of them UA For Kerry! The Republicans hadn't even ordered any yard signs as yet.

As you might guess under these circumstances, the stealing of yard signs began early here. When a local GOP official who is a prominent attorney was caught having his 13-year-old daughter steal a UA For Kerry yard sign, the story was featured on Air America Radio for over a month with a link to the UA For Kerry website! The Columbus Dispatch reported about it in two stories, and a Columbus alternative paper wrote a three-page story about UA For Kerry. Sparked by all the free publicity, growth in requests for UA For Kerry yard signs far exceeded expectations. The group ran out on two occasions in August and a waiting list was set up to fill the constant backlog. By the end of the month there were probably 500 yard signs on display in our city and still 0 Bush Cheney.

City Councilman Gets "Involved"

The attacks on the group continued in the Letters to the Editor section of our local weekly. For the first time in memory, many residents would excitedly anticipate the Wednesday delivery of the paper to open it up and see what ridiculous charges and claims were being made.

That UA For Kerry was using the auditorium within the city Municipal Building for its weekly Guest Speaker Series was decried as a misuse of city property which should be stopped by the City Council. That UA For Kerry held a rally in a city park on a Sunday was also claimed by residents in their writings to be inappropriate use of public facilities. Another citizen wrote that it created a traffic danger due to all the cars parked on the streets surrounding the park and criticized the police for not taking "appropriate action".

Sign theft was rampant and debated hotly. When a Republican City Councilman wrote that UA for Kerry was "undermining the safety of the city by reporting frivolous things such as theft of signs", he appeared to be backed up by the Chief of Police, who stated in a news story that very week that the police would no longer take telephone reports of such matters, but that residents would have to come into police headquarters to fill out a report in person because it was taking to much of the department's time to deal with what was just a "teenage prank". The very next week, a respected resident who teaches at the OSU School of Law wrote in reply a passionate rebuttal to both, clearly outlining how such thefts violated Federal Statutes relating to Freedom of Speech, Civil Rights, and Election Laws and that the city could lose Federal Grants and other money if the matter was not taken seriously.

The Councilman responded right back the next week in the paper, by announcing the newly formed UA Republican Club and stated that Bush Cheney yard signs were now available to any resident for free (relying totally upon donations, UA For Kerry had to "sell" their signs for display asking for a $10 donation) and that if they were stolen they would be replaced for free without the need for police involvement. In his published letter he said, now that the Bush Cheney signs were in and available "the front lawns around our city would be cleaned up and looking much better than they had in the last two months." How ironic that this "club" was later instructed to remove the city's logo from its' website by the city attorney after an organized protest by UA for Kerry advocates.

Where We are Today

Today, Upper Arlington has literally thousands of yard signs on display. Far more than I have ever seen in a Presidential race. Just by count while driving, I would estimate that they perhaps total close to 5,000 and run 4 BC to 3 UA For Kerry (update 10/28 Now 1 to 1). If my memory serves me well, in 2000 I would put this ratio at 50 Bush to 1 Gore with the total number of signs less than 1500 which says something about the interest level in this Presidential election here.

The local fighting back and forth has died down. One could say the for Kerry side has "won". I don't mean that the vote count coming out of Upper Arlington will necessarily total more for Kerry Edwards than Bush Cheney, but certainly this year it won't be a Republican landslide as in years past and it maybe very close. But while this is a story about yard signs and votes, it's even more a story about finding that there are others who think and believe like you, but have been reluctant to express that openly for fear of being ostracized. This ever growing group of friends and neighbors we discovered through UA For Kerry are very energized with numerous citizens working with the local ACT office and other groups to GOTV in UA and throughout the Central Ohio area.

It's been fun! It's been exciting! The UA For Kerry group sparked numerous similar groups in suburbs throughout Columbus. A subgroup called Students for Kerry was also formed along with a local Women for Kerry group. Participation in the protest of Sinclair Broadcasting and its advertisers (including picketing at one of the two local Sinclair stations) is still being carried out. This Friday evening there will be a free showing of Going Up River while Sinclair carries out its Swift Boat Liars extended commercial. People are excited, people are working, people are involved!

We KNOW we're going to bring Ohio home for John Kerry and John Edwards!

And to think it all started because one woman with no political experience stopped to talk to another woman with no political experience after she saw an X'ed out "W" sticker on a car last June!


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