Back in February 2007, there was little dust up in Cobb County over an ordinance being introduced by Joe Thompson that was effectively trying to ban cycling on a public road. I got involved. I was a cyclist and was against any type of restriction, plus I live on the road. I had no intention of letting a bunch of pinhead politicians tell me I cannot cycle in my neighborhood. I attended commission meetings, I posted all over the damn internet, I had heated discussions with homeowners and other cyclists. I also decided to document all that was going on with a blog- Bike Cobb. A permanent record of what was transpiring. I put a lot of work into it. I had many cyclists tell me they were reading it, sending links to friends and gave me thanks for the effort to keep everybody up-to-date. I also worked the press as much as I could, shooting emails to writers at the AJC and MDJ. I sent them contact information from homeowners. I did everything I could to fight this.
After the “compromise” proposal, that was no compromise (and I told all the cyclists who participated in that with Commissioner Joe Thompson that they were going to get worked over- and they did), I kept track of what was going on. Were police out? What were they doing? What was the effect? I posted pictures. I told of license checks. I did what I could. As winter approached nothing was happening, so no posting went on. I was waiting for the elections, because as I screamed from day 1, we had a chance to primary Joe Thompson.
During the winter, some guy moves to town- Joe Seconder. He was not involved in the Columns issue, sat in no commission meetings, did no battle over this contentious issue. He decided to start a bike advocacy group. Good for him. He originally registered “Cobb Cycling” on Yahoo Groups and started communicating. He sent me a few emails through my blog, Bike Cobb, but I didn’t respond, or even read the second one, because I was busy with my own thing and was not interested in working with him. Well Cobb Cycling got some people involved and they ended up setting up a website. Did they call it Cobb Cycling, after his Yahoo Group? No, Joe Seconder stole the name Bike Cobb. I guess he liked it more.
Let me point out, this is why people do not like to get involved in advocacy. You end up with unethical people doing unethical things, and just making people miserable. It was spring or summer before I read Joe Seconder's second email and realized Joe had stole the name of my blog for his advocacy group. Hell, Cobb Cycling sounded good to me. I really was a bit dumbfounded. I could not believe this guy had done this. How unethical was he? He had no respect for me, my blog, or all the effort I put in to the Columns issue and my blog. He just up and decided he liked the name so he would steal it. He stole from me.
Now he has a few excuses, as he has written and told me. Number 1: He felt he could take the name because I did not respond to his emails. Number 2: He felt he could take my name because we were both working on bicycle advocacy. I guess if he saw your bike at Columns and he asked if he could have it and you failed to respond, he would take it. Maybe, maybe not. He did do this to me however. He stole from me.
I was really unsure about how to pursue this. I didn’t want to seem petty, but I was pissed. I don’t like people taking things from me. And it has caused me trouble. I have had to explain to people, including a candidate for office, that I was the starter of Bike Cobb, but no ”maybe not the one you are thinking about.“ Plus, it really put me off my game on stuff I wanted to do for the election- like contacting candidates. The confusion and explanations were a bit much. Plus, I realized a few things about Joe Seconder’s Yahoo Group, which I did join to post election stuff, like I was doing on a bunch of other groups. What I recognized was that he deletes stuff he does not like. After he posted a glowing and completely bullshit post about Sam Olens being progressive on cycling/transportation issues, I called him on it and posted my experience with Olens. I do have experience with him from the “Columns commission meetings” and have kept track of him since then. Since I did not agree with Joe’s thoughts, he deleted the post. I posted on Woody Thompson’s background and friendships with the people who got Joe Thompson to introduce the Columns ordinance. He deleted that, along with another poster’s agreement. I can not say for sure how many posts he has removed, but removing any because you do not agree with them is pretty bad for an advocacy group.
Since I am all about pressuring politicians through exposure of facts, and Joe Seconder seems to be more about kissing up to them, I realized it would be best if any confusion between the two websites was removed. The best way for that to happen is for Joe Seconder to replace the name he stole with another one- like his original name Cobb Cycling. I asked him to do this. It would be very inexpensive. Domain registration for a year is only $15. Name changes on the website would be minor. He has not yet incorporated as a 501-c-3 group. All his flyers and stuff appear to be electronic so can be easily changed. He could keep the old domain and redirect to the new site so nobody would get lost or left out. His group is only 6 months old, so it is not like they have a long track record. His only response had been “Let’s have coffee.” I certainly will not do that since there may be future litigation. All communication should be in writing. Plus, I would feel the need to keep my hand on my wallet and eye on my car.
While I certainly have the legal right to the name Bike Cobb, I also have the moral right to it. I started using it a year before Joe stole it. I put a lot of effort into my website and advocacy with the commission. Why would somebody just come along and assume they can use it because they like it better than the name they were using? Is this an ethical person? Is this the kind of person you want to associate with for bike advocacy in Cobb County? Isn’t any group’s ethics or reputation only as good as the person running it?
So what about you Joe Seconder? You have admitted you decided to start using the name even though you knew I was using it for my blog, for cycling advocacy. Do you want to stand up, be a man, admit you made a mistake and correct it? Do you want to do what is right? Or do you want to try and keep using a name you stole? This is going to speak a lot about what type of man you are and what type of organization you are going to run. Do you want people to be able to trust you? Or do you want people worried about what you might take from them? You can end this whole thing by doing the right thing. Think about it.