Monday, June 6, 2011

How many trees does it take...

While finishing another afternoon of permit paperwork, I came up for a breath and realized that I have exerted a whole day trying to get permission for 50 horses to ride a few miles.  Just in case you were hoping to replicate this spiritual horse ride across two states, I thought I'd share some tricks of the trade I've discovered to make the permitting process go more efficiently.  Each of these ideas are stand alone but if you had the foresight to stack them, you might find yourself with lots of free time for planning some other event!
(Note the sarcasm...)
1) Plan two to three years in advance and work in it one to two hours a night.  Any earlier and the political winds might shift as others are elected, so don't drag it out.
2) Committee work is exhausting so just bulldoze your way through.  Get her done.  Mop up the mess of relationships and emotions later.
3) Conduct the entire horse ride in the same municipality.  This can be accomplished by either taking over surrounding municipalities OR choosing to ride in a grandiose circle ad nauseum. 
4) Dress the horses up to look like cows and then it doesn't appear to be a "parade" and might fall under a different, easier ordinance.
5) Work hard. Do your best.  Beg for help.  Barter.  Did  I mention beg?  Trust in the human good of everyone who is involved in the permitting process and when you've exhausted all you know how to do and have time to do, then get out of the way and ask God to do a miracle.
6) Skip to the end of #5 first and then work backwards from there depending on yours skill set.
7) Just quit with all the paperwork.  Assume the risk getting arrested and plead your case to the court that you simply could not fulfill all the requirements.  In most communities it is a misdemeanor to hold or participate in a parade without a permit which won't lead to jail time but it will probably preclude you from ever getting a permit in the future.
8) Just quit the whole thing and answer to God for disobeying Him instead.

At several times throughout the day I felt empathetic to those who have taken option #6.  And please don't hear me wrong.  I fully appreciate the policies and ordinances that are DESIGNED to keep the public safe.  Remember me, "Prevention Steph." Without some of these policies I'm sure chaos would reign supreme.  But I had a few pangs today as I worked on getting the appropriate paperwork for a new route because flooding will prevent  the riders from going the planned route.  The flooding has made traveling off road impossible. So now June 17th schedule is a little up in the air on the final stretch leading to Bdote.

I haven't cried yet today.  There's still time.  I'm either more delusional than normal or numb, but I think it's actually going to work out.  Starting at 3 I got my first return phone call from the city that I left last Friday.  (Not throwing stones, just a fact).  Now we're inside 15 days with city council tomorrow night at 6:30. After a rapid fire of phone calls this afternoon there is a good chance for resolution and I turn again to writing as my therapy.

My afternoon included a barrage of phone calls that unbelievably got through or were returned promptly.  I'm still stunned.  I went to the bank and got my form notarized. I personally wrote the $100 check which is now attached to the copy of my drivers license and my completed permit application that I will drop off at 7 AM across town en route to a speak to a school several hours away tomorrow. On my way back home I will appear before city council, assuming the police chief (who also is a Rotarian) will find a route that works and the city administrator(also a Rotarian) will get this permit on the agenda.  Then all the work will hopefully pay off as they give me the permit.

It's not approved until it's approved but I'm done working for the evening and am quite excited to sit under a shade tree in the 99 degree heat and sip some lemonade.  I'm thinking about those riders who left South Dakota and rode in this tremendous heat all day while I worked from my air conditioned home. We each have our roles.

+Know whom to call at the city and get a copy of the permit emailed to you or go to city hall and get a copy
(What if you live in a different state? What if you simply aren't good at reading or filling out forms or speak a different language/)
+Print the permit and sign it on your homeprinter. (What if you don't have access to technology?)
+Submit the form to the city at least 15 days before the next city council meeting with $25 application fee and $75 investigation fee to be paid to the Police Chief.  (What if you are crossing multiple jurisdictions?  This gets pricey very quickly. What if you have a change in route?).
+The police will conduct a criminal background check after you submit a notarized copy of authorization. (What if you were arrested for a first ammendment right protest fifteen years ago...What if you don't know have a notary public to authenticate your signature and pay their fee for service)
+Determine your route that is preferably compiled and presented by a traffic engineering study ($!)
+Get your item listed on the city council agenda with appropriate public notice in the local paper
+Get approval for permits from each state, county, city that you plan to enter.  (One of my later posts will show this by the numbers of how many permits we needed to get signed, the cost and the amount of meetings.  Too painful to think about right now and it's still accumulating anyhow.
+Show your plan for trailer drop off, safety escorts and feces clean up.
+Drop off a form that shows proof of insurance ($$ and pretty difficult to get)
+Attend the public meeting of your event (What if you live on a reservation 8-10 hours away?  What if you don't live in that community or have connections? Plus this is especially time consuming with even one municipality)
As I reflect on the long process to acquire an approved horse "parade" permit to avoid arrest and to prevent public safety issue, I wonder if this process and our government is proof that we are civilized and advanced. I think about the world that was 150 years ago and the traditional life when indigenous people would make a pilgrimage to sacred places to pray. Sure they can drive or fly there much faster today, but as someone who has been on a commemorative walk, I appreciate and treasure the journey.  It's not about arriving, it's about the prayer, the time to think, to see things you can't see when you're flying over them or zooming by at 55 miles per hour.

And there's a part of me that's sad to think of how difficult it is for a traditional person who just wants to take a pilgrimage to their sacred site to pray, to heal.  Is this progress? Are we more "civilized?"  Have society evolved in a good way?  I'm not saying that permits aren't for the common good and that things haven't changed. However, without being too nastalgic, I can see that our process has made it nearly impossible to worship anywhere except for a formal constructed structure operated by an approved religious organization.  For us to have freedom of religion, I felt today the burden that indigenous elders must feel and can understand why some have quit trying to honor the Creator in their traditional way and why others have become so frustrated with the process that they will never beat, so they face arrest.

And would I face the chance of arrest to go pray?  Would I just quit my traditional ways because it is simply too expensive and labor intensive and stressful just to cross on municipality that was built near my sacred site?

There must be a better way to protect the public safety and still honor the Creator in the manner He has called them to exercise their faith. I know that it's about the freedom to believe how we want, but there is more that we can do to help allow people the opportunity to practice their faith too.  I simply think that we can do better and a way we can save more trees if we aren't filling out as many forms.