Street protest takes to Internet

By JANICE PODSADA

Herald Writer

MUKILTEO — Once upon a time protesters took their banners and bullhorns to the street.

Now, busy work schedules and time constraints have made it more convenient for demonstrators to log on and post their protest.

Citizens for Connected Communities, a group opposing the closure of Saint Andrews Drive at 116th Street SW, Mukilteo’s southern city limits, recently launched a Web site to promote their cause.

The Web site is not only designed to provide information, but like a traffic island or a speed bump, function as a calming device, said Sheila Olason, a member of Connected Communities.

"It got so emotional that it was really like a war zone — people chasing cars in the middle of the night," Olason said. "Hopefully with the Web site, it will cut down on the emotional response and explain some of the legal information."

Tempers in Mukilteo and in neighborhoods to the south in unincorporated Snohomish County erupted when the gate was installed in September.

Tempers flared again, when the gate was removed a month later, as a result of a lawsuit filed against the city of Mukilteo by Connected Communities. The city council OKd the street’s closure in May.

The tentative hearing date for the group’s lawsuit against the city is scheduled for Jan. 19 in Snohomish County Superior Court.

Those supporting the gate’s installation don’t have a Web site, said Andrew Czernek, who’s spearheaded the effort to close Saint Andrews Drive to traffic.

"I roughed a Web site out, but the issue is in the court now," Czernek said. "I know what their Web site is, and I haven’t looked at it."

Web sites are fast becoming a must-have item for even the smallest community groups, said Patricia Moy, assistant professor of communications at the University of Washington in Seattle.

Locally, a group of about 20 people, who say they serve as watchdogs for the Sultan City Council, run a Web site at www.ittakesgrit.org.

A home on the Web can make all the difference, Moy said.

A professional-looking Web site can make even a small organization appear larger than it is, a quality that can elicit dollars and add bodies to the cause.

"It’s a great way to mobilize people and raise money," Moy said. "But be prepared to get just one side of the story. It probably won’t present all sides; it won’t be objective."

Connected Communities’ Web site is updated every Tuesday. Visitors can dash off an e-mail — pro or con — peruse official city documents, or view photos of traffic calming devices, group member Spring Beasley said.

"Since October 26, we’ve had 197 hits to our homepage."

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