Emily Fisher’s Valiant Fight

Ari L. NoonanOP-ED

     The hotel developer/applicant and the organized neighbors have been going to war since last year. Tellefson Park area residents object on numerous grounds, including claims about sharply increased traffic and the sheer size of the building which, they say, will blot out light and interfere with their view. They have said they are amenable to another business taking over the vacant lot.
     All of that, however, seemed incidental to Ms. Fisher’s no-nonsense rendering.
     What made Ms. Fisher’s presentation instructive for posterity was that she spoke extemporaneously and lengthily, demonstrating a dizzying depth of knowledge about the ten thousand arcane rules governing construction of a new business.
     That the City Council later voted three to two to plunge ahead with building the hotel did not detract from Ms. Fisher’s eloquent essay.
No Stop Signs

     She never paused. She scarcely drew a breath. Her driven will, her utter immersion in an intimidatingly dense subject, her disarming familiarity with speck-sized details paralyzed the crowd in Council Chambers. 
     Unaccompanied by even a hint of glitz or histrionics, Ms. Fisher delivered a trenchant twenty-one minute performance that should serve as a model for every professional or amateur speaker hereafter who approaches the podium in Council Chambers.
     The rigor with which she approached her task manifested itself in the vigor of her delivery.
     Animated within strict parameters — employing both arms for punctuation — her only prop was a ream of legal documents from which she sparingly quoted.
     Ms. Fisher’s Hall of Fame oratory would not have been achievable without the extraordinary patience of Mayor Vera. Far more liberal than his predecessors in granting speakers a wide berth, never once did Mr. Vera glance toward the clock during her talk that may have broken a time record for private citizens.
     Instinctively, and no doubt smartly, Mr. Vera sensed that for the second meeting in a row large numbers of grimly determined citizens had locked arms in a staredown against the City Council, which bristles when challenged.

     As a veteran of political fights, braced by his reputation for brash, unorthodox outspokenness, Mr. Vera cast an eye toward the dozens of Bentley Avenue area neighbors who had soberly filed into Council Chambers. They were hoping to at least cool the city’s perceived ardor for the hotel project.
     Several times during the uncommonly long hour-and-forty-five-minute discussion, the mayor sought to make variously worded motions to kill off
the project altogether. He was seeking to dovetail, he said, into the will of the common folk. Each time, legal counsel Murray Kane told Mr. Vera he couldn’t make such a motion because the agenda item was much narrower, arguably a technicality.

Presenting With Style

     Badly as Mr. Vera wanted to accommodate the crowd, he was rebuffed. But, as his rivals have learned, the mayor has a long memory.
     As for the diminutive Ms. Fisher, she may be as tall as five feet. If her height doesn’t seize your attention, her brown-haired pony tail will,
switching, as it does, from side to side.
     Hardly an overnight success, Ms. Fisher, a decades-long resident of Bentley, distinguishes herself from standard-issue activists with her enormously comprehensive homework. She studies forgotten cases. She visits obscure, dusty corners in code books that regular activists would drive by.
     Whether her school-days’ debate teacher is in heaven or on earth, he/she must have been glowing as if a hot ash.
     No stranger to ear-bending, Ms. Fisher held City Councilman Alan Corlin on the telephone for a full hour the night before the meeting about her concerns. In the past, she has carried her case du jour to The Front Page, arguing her side with compelling logic.