Friday, December 1

Why I Quest for Direct Democracy, What I learned

This is the brief story of how I, happy-go-lucky not-so-tight-rope artist Evan from Heaven, was treated by the government of Boulder, Colorado, how my Guatemalan friends were killed by US-supplied weapons, what I decided to do about it 30 years ago, and what's happened since.


I worked as Evan from Heaven on Boulder's famous Pearl St. Mall, but members of the Mall Commission who wanted to "curtail the circus atmosphere" shut me down repeatedly, in spite of our enormous popularity and the Commission only having advisory power -as my volunteer lawyer later discovered. When City Council, going against a petition of some 4000 supporting me (see a page at bottom), gave the Commission licensing power, the Commission refused to license me.

 Among others banned was mime David Shiner who was arrested at least twice for "impersonating an officer" and went on to be Ringmaster of Le Cirque du Soleil, had his own show on Broadway, and is one of the most famous clowns in the world.

Evan as JesusI left Boulder, performed in Aspen and Key West, and then Yelapa, Mexico. Arriving penniless in this fishing/tourist village, I was given a free hotel room with a view. The Mayor, known as Piri, fed me lunch daily at his restaurant at the foot of the town waterfall, where I entertained his diners by tightroping over the falls -see photo below. What a change from Boulder! Doy gracias a la dulce Morena y sus hijos. I made enough in tips to live there in paradise and in spring to travel back north. I was also honored to play Jesus for Holy Week celebrations there in 1986.

In 1985, my volunteer lawyer Doug Thorburn talked some sense into Boulder's oligarchs and I was able to resume my shows, which I did until an old injury forced my retirement in 1998. I continued to live in Mexico and Guatemala seasonally into the 90s.


In Guatemala, I fell in love with Lake Atitlan, which Aldous Huxley called "the most beautiful lake in the world." I started building a house on Maya artist friend Raul Velasquez Barrios' land (photo below, with 2 of the 3 volcanoes by the lake in the background), but abandoned it when 3 other Maya friends were killed by the Guatemalan Army -with U.S.-supplied M-16s. Some 200,000 were killed, tens of thousands horribly tortured, mostly in the '80s.



I gave up the house and returned to Boulder, depressed. I read in Howard Zinn's "People's History of the U.S." that "polls showed by 1975 that 65% of Americans were opposed to all foreign military aid" -because it strengthened dictators. I realized if this was a binding vote and not just a poll my friends would still be alive -along with 200,000 other Guatemalans, and millions from Vietnam to the Americas. If we had real "government by the people", our shows would not have been banned in Boulder. The world would be a much better place.



So, I spearheaded Boulder's 1993 Voting by Phone ballot initiative, hoping this would make more direct democracy practical. We made the CBS Evening News, the Wall St. Journal, etc.

With the City Council dishonestly attacking our initiative it was defeated 59-41%. I started Vote.org in 1995 to promote citizen power via better and national ballot initiatives. I sold that domain in 2015 and that site is now at EvanRavitz.com/vote.

(Initiatives are controversial, thanks to media dwelling on the few bad ones. But the full record shows the results are far better than what politicians do. Because it was until 2016 easier in Colorado than most states to get initiatives on the ballot, we have a stellar recordWhen signing initiative petitions is allowed online, it will be even better.)

I soon got a call from Jared Polis, a Princeton student who'd enabled student voting by web. We've been friends ever since.

Jared became the wealthiest and most philanthropic person in Boulder. He sponsored 2 Colorado ballot initiatives which passed becoming Amendment 23 (raising K-12 school spending) and Amendment 41 (the country's strongest prohibition on lobbyist "gifts" to politicians.) Jared is now our Congressman. He said on radio in 2008 that he would introduce a bill for national ballot initiatives in his first year. But he didn't realize it would take a constitutional amendment. 

In 2000 I devoted Vote.org to famed former Sen. Mike Gravel's project for better and national initiatives. I solicited endorsements from prominent people. Howard Zinn became one of the first, along with Patch Adams, Pete Seeger, Daniel Ellsberg, Julia Butterfly Hill, "Granny D," Michael Lerner, Ralph Nader etc. See the complete list. Gravel ran for President in 2008 mainly to promote this project. But the project has stalled.


But time has proved Direct Democracy has a better record than representatives, for the most part. Colorado is a relative paradise due to ballot initiatives, while "our" legislature does little but obstruct the process -they tried with Referendum O in 2010 and succeeded in 2016 with Amendment 71- and pass preemption laws to prevent localities from solving our own problems.


Boulder Colorado voters this election will vote on issue 2G which will allow the city to offer ONLINE petitions for future ballot initiatives, which we believe will be the biggest Improvement in direct democracy in it's century in America. By a fluke, I was appointed to the cities campaign financing elections working group and our 11 members unanimously recommended it and Council unanimously voted it on to the ballot. Here is our working group's editorial for issue 2 G. 


We now see 2 other ways we could get national ballot initiatives:

1. We're hoping Bernie Sanders becomes the next President and that we can interest him in this. There are several ways initiatives can be made more deliberative and available to those without a lot of money that would make them more like New England town meetings. If you know Bernie or how we can contact him or his wife Jane, please let me know: eravitz@gmail.com.

2. My friend Dan Marks somehow managed to get Congress to count the backlog of state requests for a US "convention to propose amendments" under Article V. We, along with Bill Walker, of Friends of Article V Convention got Congressman Polis to do some preparatory work with the House Parliamentarian. Now we know how Congress has avoided their duty to call a convention. But Polis has chickened out: He's running for Governor of Colorado and doesn't want to confuse his message. Please encourage him: jared (at) jaredpolis.com. 

The Young Turks did a fine video story.We have an Article V Facebook group you can follow.

National ballot initiatives should be #1 priority as constitutional amendment because it would make future amendments and laws doable by citizens without waiting another 200+ years for an Article V convention.

I spoke about an Article 5 Convention and National ballot initiatives at a forum the League of Women Voters had with Wolf PAC 1/15/18 in Longmont Colorado. My intro and speech start at 12:30 in. (At 14:59 in when I say, "The convention opposes a convention,"  I mean the League of Women Voters opposes a convention...) 



3. Elon Musk has been promoting direct democracy. I bet I can convince him to help get it via an Article V convention, or to fund a Colorado ballot initiative to allow signing future ballot initiative petitions on the Secretary of State's website. This would bring ballot initiatives into the 21st Century: It would open the process to groups without huge funds, save the Secretary of State the expense of comparing physical signatures, get more people to read more of the initiative text before signing the petition, reduce harassment and misrepresentation to get signatures, and save time, gas, paper and money for petitioners.

If anyone can help me get the attention of the most productive man in the world, let me know!: eravitz (at) gmail.com


Many people have told me that this story should be a dramatic film, along the lines of the 1998 hit Patch Adams, about my old friend who has been building a free hospital in the poorest part of Appalachia and spreading laughter and clown therapy around the world. It would be a vehicle to promote real democracy.

I think Matt Damon would be interested because of his childhood friendship with our inspiration Howard Zinn, who Matt talks about in Good Will Hunting, and whose book sent me on this quest. If anyone knows how I can get Matt's attention, please do.

We need help. Almost all politicians and the people who buy their votes are opposed to government by the people. Read what "my" former Senator Mark Udall and other prominent Colorado "Democrats" said about our project to try to kill it.

Let my people VOTE!

-Evan 'from Heaven' Ravitz

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