Good news, Denverites! Next year (probably in August), you'll get a chance to vote on UFOlogist Jeff Peckman's ballot measure to create an "extraterrestrial affairs commission." Denver Clerk and Recorder Stephanie O'Malley has confirmed that Peckman's surpassed the 3,974 signatures needed for inclusion.
Not that everybody's cheering. In noting this development, today's Denver Post reports: "Some City Council members say Peckman's efforts affirm their fears that the city's low threshold for getting initiatives onto the ballot invites frivolity."
Peckman rejects that theory by contrasting the number of signatures he had to collect with the total required of -- ahem -- city council members.
"Remember, it only takes 100 signatures for city council members to get themselves on the ballot," he says. "And for Charlie Brown, that 100 signatures put him into a race that was uncontested. So when you think about it, he only needed 100 signatures to get a $70,000 salary. So I throw this back in their lap.
"I have to get 4,000 signatures just to pass one ordinance they can repeal in six months if they want to -- so I think it's unfair to make the suggestion that it's too easy to get things on the ballot. They just don't like people taking matters into their own hands."
Peckman's certainly done so in this case, over the course of approximately eighteen months.
"I first submitted the original petition in April of 2008, and I was very new to the issue at the time," he concedes. "It just seemed like it needed to be done, and nobody else wanted to do it -- so I took it upon myself.
"My second attempt was last autumn, and we were successful. But when it came to my attention that the initiative might have been the only thing on the ballot in May 2009, at a cost to the city of between $500,000 and $750,000, I just backed off. When the city council chose not to pass it on their own or even consider it to prevent that scenario, I withdrew it."
No such problem this time around. The August 2010 vote "is going to be the primary election for the whole state," Peckman points out. "And since Denver will participate in that, this just means one extra thing on the ballot."
Despite his previous efforts, bringing the initiative to the next stage took a couple of attempts. A group of ten-to-fifteen volunteers, Peckman included, plus an equal number of paid staffers, collected what they thought to be enough signatures earlier this year and submitted them on September 4. But O'Malley rejected many of them, meaning Peckman and his crew had to go out and find another 1,028 people to sign. In the end, Peckman says 1,250 of the second batch proved acceptable.
When asked how he'd describe his plans for promoting the initiative, whose online home is ExtraCampaign.org, Peckman says, "Grassroots and a shoestring budget. But as the awareness grows of the importance of this topic, larger resources could get attracted."
One source of free PR: the national media. Peckman's appeared on chat shows with David Letterman, Larry King and Geraldo Rivera to promote his ET measure during the past year-plus -- "and all the major national news networks did interviews with me, too."
In his opinion, such press "actually helped fulfill the intention of doing the ballot initiative in the first place -- which was to bring attention to the issue and to the experiences of people who've had encounters with extraterrestrial intelligence." But the demands proved to be a double-edged sword.
"The media took up most of the petitioning time," he maintains. "I thought, 'Do I blow off all the media and keep collecting signatures?' But the media was there and eager. So even though it made it hard to collect signatures, it helped achieve the goal of the petition itself."
That's likely to happen again. "I just popped up on NPR this morning, and the New York Times -- and I did another radio interview in California," Peckman says. "So this is attracting attention elsewhere in the country, and I think that will spread around the world. Last year, I did interviews for Ireland and South Africa."
Even so, he doesn't expect "a flash flood of media attention." Rather, "I think it'll be more of a growing stream of deeper information that reaches people over the next eight months."
You've been warned.