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Change of heart puts Forest Grove woman at epicenter of campaign

After voting against a safety levy last fall, Cindy MacIntyre does an about-face when she hears that police and fire jobs could be at risk if May measure fails
by: Chase Allgood, Cindy MacIntyre, a key member of a local committee focused on passing a city safety levy in May, places signs in shop windows.

Last November, Cindy MacIntyre was making dinner while her husband James read off the items on their mail-in ballots. When it came to a levy that would raise $5.6 million for the City of Forest Grove, she voted 'no.'

Today she's second-in-charge of the campaign to pass the same measure in May.

Her change of heart came after she heard from Forest Grove city councilors about what would likely be cut as a result of the levy's November failure. The scariest prospect for MacIntyre: the loss of four police and three fire positions.

'I didn't understand what it was about - I didn't understand the impact it had on the city,' MacIntyre said.

That's why she signed up to volunteer for the political action committee that's trying to persuade voters to mail in a 'yes' vote on the May levy.

Ray Giansante, who ran the campaign in November and is in charge of the current effort as well, pressed MacIntyre into service as the campaign's marketing coordinator as much for her November 'no' vote as for her background in marketing.

'I think it's indicative of some of the mistakes we might have made the first time through,' Giansante said of MacIntyre's vote. 'We simply weren't clear enough about what this issue was.'

Part of the problem, organizers say, is that in the November campaign they failed to make it clear that are asking for an extension of an existing levy that taxpayers are already paying.

To pay for costs associated with the city's growth, the levy would jump from 99 cents per $1,000 of assessed value, to $1.35. The increase would cost a typical homeowner $6 a month.

Levy supporters wanted to make sure they got that message across more clearly this time, and MacIntyre, who was active in previous campaigns in Coos County, was available.

MacIntyre said when Giansante asked her to run the revamped marketing effort she accepted on one condition: that the campaign focus on safety instead of other city services that also could suffer if the police and fire budgets are cut.

A city analysis conducted earlier this year showed that parks and library departments would both take big hits if the levy fails.

'It's all important to me but I felt like that was the most important,' MacIntyre said. 'If we don't have fire and police, crime's going to go up and property values are going to go down.'

MacIntyre's belief in the importance of fully staffed public safety departments comes from an experience she had three years ago while caring for her young daughter, Paige.

'I was at home doing laundry and she was by my side one minute and the next she was gone,' MacIntyre wrote on the campaign's Web site, www.cscsupport.org.

After searching the house and calling Paige, her mind turned to the worst. Paige had just learned how to open the door to their house in Forest Gale Heights.

There was a creek nearby.

She grabbed the cordless phone and started to search the neighborhood.

'At first I figured, 'How far can a two-year-old go?'' MacIntyre told the News-Times.

But when she couldn't spot her pigtailed daughter, MacIntyre dialed 9-1-1.

The operator stayed on the line and dispatched a Forest Grove Police officer to her house. While she was waiting for the officer to arrive, she frantically elicited the help of a neighbor on a bike.

The woman asked Paige's age.

'When I said two, she threw her helmet off and started looking,' MacIntyre said.

When an officer arrived minutes later, MacIntyre was frantic, thinking with every minute her daughter was further and further away. But the officer calmed her down and urged her to check the house one more time.

'When I went in the door, I said 'Paige!' and she came walking right up to me,' MacIntyre said.

'I looked at the officer and started apologizing and he just said, 'that's okay, it happens all the time up here,'' MacIntyre said.

Paige had been hiding in a nook inside the house the entire time, drawing pictures on the wall with her mother's lipstick and nail polish.

'She didn't come when I called her because she knew I'd take those away,' MacIntyre said.

That kind of comprehensive coverage now seems like a bargain at any price to MacIntyre.

'When I think of needing the police or fire department and not having anyone to come to my rescue or to my children's … I think I can give up a latte or two a month to keep them,' MacIntyre wrote on the campaign Web site.

Her husband James isn't yet convinced (he's still thinking about voting 'no' on the levy) but he supports his wife's passion.

And MacIntyre said that's vital. She gets about 12 calls a day on her cell phone about the levy and stays up until 2 in the morning thinking up ways to persuade voters - and her husband - to mark 'yes' in May.

'I've got this campaign going on at home and this one on the street,' MacIntyre said.

But she's already made one convert: Paige, now 5, tags along with her all day as she rallies supporters and runs errands for the campaign.

McIntyre regularly reflects about how that memorable call three years ago might have gone if the city had been tight on cash for services at that critical time.

'If that woman at the end of the line had said, 'All of our officers are busy',' MacIntyre said, 'I would have had a heart attack.'