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EAA AirVenture Today is published by the Experimental Aircraft Association for EAA AirVenture from July 27 - August 3. It is distributed free on the convention grounds as well as other locations in Oshkosh and surrounding communities. Stories and photos are copyrighted 2008 by EAA AirVenture Today and EAA. Reproduction by any means is prohibited without written consent.

  

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The official daily newspaper of EAA AirVenture Oshkosh


Volume 9, Number 3 July 29, 2008     

Milford Shirley to receive President’s Award
By Barbara A. Schmitz

Officials gathered to celebrate Glorious Johnson Day when the Aluminum Overcast came to town. From left are Earl Lawrence, Councilor Glorious Johnson, and Milford Shirley, EAA Chapter 193 president.

Nine little words, but they had a big impact.

Brian Kraut was at an EAA Chapter 193 meeting when he quietly said, "There’s something I think you need to know about."

He told the group about a city ordinance enacted in Jacksonville, Florida, in June 2006 that made it illegal to work on an aircraft or store an aircraft in residential areas.

"There was stunned silence for a while," recalled Milford Shirley, EAA Chapter 193 president. "We said a law can’t say that, but Brian had copies to show us it could."

Kraut’s story tumbled out. For nearly 18 months, a neighbor had been calling the Jacksonville zoning department to complain and stop him from building an airplane in his garage. Finally, the neighbor got the attention of a city councilor who drafted and created an ordinance that banned people from working on their homebuilt projects at home.

Shirley said the chapter immediately decided that this was something it needed to be involved with. The first thing members did was canvas Kraut’s neighborhood. Every person who answered the door was in favor of allowing Kraut to build his plane, Shirley said. "One woman even said, ‘We like it when he’s working on his airplane. We know where our son will be.’"

Next, they attended a city council meeting.

"We had decided we wouldn’t be accusatory or combative," he said. "We just told them about the law … and explained what it meant. There was a three-minute time limit, so each member would say a different thing about the law and how silly and onerous it was."

And at the end of the night, the council agreed and said a new law would be drafted, and it invited the chapter members to be involved. "We thought we had won," Shirley said. "But months later, we were still fighting."

In fact, it took 15 months for the law to be overturned, and Shirley was at the center of the grassroots movement. For his efforts, Shirley will be presented the President’s Award Tuesday at Theater in the Woods. The award acknowledges members whose participation and contributions represent the "essence" of EAA.

"This is an example of the grassroots leadership within the organization," EAA President Tom Poberezny said. "It shows the involvement of EAA on local issues and the ability to respond to issues that impact aviation."

Shirley said, while he appreciates the award, it took many people to overturn the law.

Chapter members created information packets and handed them out to the council members. They started making phone calls. They walked picket lines. They attended countless zoning and council meetings. EAA member Joe Weaner, owner of Beach Banner, towed banners free in support of the group. And to every zoning and council meeting they went, they wore red shirts displaying the EAA logo and calling for the repeal of the law.

Neighboring EAA Chapter 1379 also jumped in the fight. "They realized the same that we did, that this law couldn’t stand," said Shirley. "It was an abuse of power, and we didn’t want it to spread."

Shirley said since the fight to have the law repealed took so long, he was worried they would lose momentum. "But people felt strongly about it, and if I e-mailed them there was a meeting, 12-18 people would show up at every meeting, all wearing their red shirts. They really were warriors. Getting rid of this law was an example of EAAers in action."

Then, finally, Councilor Glorious Johnson sponsored a bill to repeal the law. On September 27, 2007, the council voted 15-0 in favor of City Bill 955, which repealed the so-called Everett Ordinance prohibiting parking, storing, repairing, and operating flying craft and airboats in residential districts.

Weeks later EAA members gathered at Cecil Field Airport to recognize the repeal of the city ordinance and to honor Johnson.

Shirley attributed their success to EAA members’ passion. "We had a large group of people who were passionate about their hobby and the law not being there," he said. "They believed it singled us out, and they stood tall and hung together."

Or it could be that they just wore them out, he said, laughing. "They knew if they didn’t step forward to repeal the law, we still would be there every Tuesday night."

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