By Jordy Yager - 09/08/09 07:30 PM EDT
“Those steps need a little color,” said Eric Yaverbaum, a public-relations specialist and co-founder, with fellow New Yorker Mark DiMassimo, of the $750,000 campaign called ReadtoVote.org.
The effort is intended to draw attention to the fact that lawmakers are moving legislation they haven’t actually read. And what better way to draw attention than with bright chalk more associated with games of hopscotch than legislation?
The group is trying to recruit 1,018 volunteers, each of whom would be responsible for writing a page of the lengthy bill. Each would be encouraged to chalk up the steps in his or her own style, meaning the Capitol could look quite colorful even when covered with healthcare language.
Yaverbaum describes it as a public art effort.
“With 1,018 chalkers, every one of them is an artist themselves, so every one of them gets to write it anyway they want. We’re going to bring art to those steps,” he said.
The campaign launched Tuesday with advertisements asking for “chalkers” in several major national newspapers. The group also sent letters to each office requesting that lawmakers sign a pledge to read the healthcare legislation.
“We’re really trying to make a point, and the point is that nobody reads these bills, including the very people who vote on them, which is ridiculous,” said Yaverbaum. “Until you read the document, you can’t really debate the document, but that’s what we all do, we all debate sound bites."
If every member of Congress signed the pledge to read the bill, Yaverbaum said, the campaign would halt its plans to write the bill’s language in chalk on the steps.
Yaverbaum said the group has not taken a position on the substance of healthcare reform, and a date for the project has not been picked.
Spokesmen for the U.S. Capitol Police and the Architect of the Capitol’s office did not immediately return calls for comment.
Yaverbaum doesn’t expect it will be easy to get permission to chalk the Capitol steps, though he emphasizes brightly colored chalk will leave no lasting damage.
“I don’t know how the general public will feel about us chalking the steps, but unlike graffiti, the chalk disappears once the rain comes and it’s not hard to clean up, so I don’t know what the issue would be,” said Yaverbaum.
“But if I had to guess, I’d say that it’s not going to be easy to get permission, but with enough public sentiment behind it I hope that we can,” he said, adding that he would not authorize the “chalking” of the steps if he did not receive permission.