American history is filled with acts of civil disobedience &

well-meaning folks acting outside the boundaries of the law, without bringing harm to anyone, in an effort to draw attention to issues for the greater good. Ashland's city councilors are familiar with such tactics.

Councilor Eric Navickas understands. He has utilized tactics that fall within the guidelines of civil disobedience to draw attention to issues he believed were essential for public debate. His creative construction of benches on the Plaza were just one of many such instances.

Councilor Cate Hartzell knows how to walk the line as well. Such was the case recently when she pulled a stall tactic at a council meeting, holding up her vote in the waning moments of the meeting in a last-ditch effort to defeat a motion that was already won. While her stall tactic failed, it nevertheless drew the attention she desired.

Hard as this may be to believe, local businessman Lloyd Haines is cut from similar cloth. Though the developer may differ politically with Councilors Navickas and Hartzell, Haines is nevertheless another one of Ashland's unique characters with a deep and abiding concern for the welfare of this great city. For years, there has been talk of renovating the downtown area, and dreams of attracting Plaza browsers into adjacent areas of the city. A number of efforts have been made, but nothing as creative and inexpensive as the tactic Haines devised.

Haines recognized the wheels governing the processes at City Hall were molded into square blocks. He witnessed lackluster efforts to repair the embarrassment of the missing water fountain on the Plaza and replace the missing head of Abraham Lincoln standing at the high-traffic entrance to Lithia Park. Haines must have noticed how embarrassed residents dug into their own pockets and paid for the replacement of the statue's head. Perhaps someone will come forward with a sparkling brand new Lithia water fountain as well.

As for Haines, he tackled the idle issue of drawing Plaza patrons toward an adjacent business district of Ashland while adding a new attraction to the downtown area. Sure, as a savvy businessman, he will benefit from the investment. But investments should pay off, shouldn't they?

If Haines were counseling our councilors, he would have them invest in Ashland in a number of ways that would bring profit to the city. In his small act of defiance, Haines showed us what could be. He illustrated in a manner, that only a visionary could, just how we could take advantage of an average part of Ashland and marry it with the beauty that surrounds it. He showed us how to attract even more attention and create a beautiful walkway under a common street overpass.

Yes, Haines did it by going around the political bureaucrats. He disregarded the maniacal apathy that transcends all reason. He broke the law.

And yes, he could have used epoxy instead of drilling holes into the bridge. He could have stuck the paintings underneath the dark bridge without lights. He could have done it all under cover of darkness with nary a soul being aware of whose project beautified such an ordinary (some say ugly) place that separated two wonderful areas of our city. Yes, we could second-guess his every action. That's why he didn't ask us.

Instead, Haines decided to skip the minutiae &

albeit legal minutiae &

that tends to kill creativity and progress. He overlooked those who have overlooked this issue for years. He took action. And in that action he got our attention. He shared his vision with us all and captivated our imaginations.

And for his generous and risky behavior, we will punish Haines. We will make him sit in a dark alley with no lights and no colorful art. He will be scorned, ridiculed, ostracized and demonized. For daring to step over the waist-deep waste of time that has been lost talking about what might be, could be and ought to be, Haines will be regarded as the man who fought City Hall and lost.

But for those who walk the pathway and see the eight panels Haines has displayed above, they will also see dozens more slots awaiting a similar tasteful expression. Can we envision an impressive outdoor gallery of diverse art all along an underpass that was only known before for its blight? Haines did.

To me, Haines will be the epitome what is right with Ashland. He will be a symbol of artistic vision coupled with business acumen. That is what Ashland seeks to become. And within our midst is a man who understands that more than most. Haines is a bold, bright courageous leader, willing to stand in the way of slings and arrows without cowering to a political position of silence or deflection. Yes, he broke the law in order to shed light on an issue that deserves our attention. And now, in the shadow of a darkened overpass that once showed the light of a visionary, Haines has caught our attention. What will Ashland do now?