It’s time to ask: Do those Change.org petitions you’re signing make a difference?

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Charlotte has seen its fair share of citizens pushing back against via Change.org petitions over the years.

The website allows people that aren’t in positions of power to garner support for a movement. In Charlotte, the extensive collection of petitions has covered everything from regulating backyard breeders to allowing dogs in taprooms once more to bringing a bike lane to Plaza Midwood.

Ann Ross’s bid to stop developer Edens from closing Park Road Shopping Center’s Park Terrace Theatre after the manager chose not to renew the lease quickly caught the eye of plenty on social media, garnering 4,500+ signatures.

“This historic theatre is a Charlotte landmark and vital cultural asset to our community,” Ross wrote. Opened in 1964, the theater held the title of the second oldest in the city (behind Manor Theater).

It was well-known for bringing independent and foreign films to Charlotte (the last film it showed was “My Friend Dahmer,” about serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer), and it cemented a place in many Charlotteans’ hearts, as evident by the Agenda’s Instagram post, which garnered over 1,200 likes and 300 comments lamenting the loss.

“Why?” one user wrote. “So it can be replaced with another crappy burger franchise and more rental apartments?”

“Another Charlotte landmark will be torn down… how does this keep happening?” another asked.

“[Edens is] based in Columbia, SC, and, as such, are removed from the emotional and cultural impact of this decision,” Ross wrote. “Especially for close-in city dwellers, which there are more and more each day.”

Despite garnering over 3,000 signatures in its first 24 hours, the theater was closed December 17. The decision came from Edens, the Columbia, South Carolina-based developer responsible for the massive facelift the shopping center has undergone in the past few years.

Additions like J. Crew Mercantile, Chopt and CO, which have replaced stores like Toys & Co, Piedmont Music Center and Park Road Quick Cleaners to breathe new life into the 62-year-old strip mall.

Representatives for Edens were unable to be reached for comment on the matter, but Lyle Darrnall told the Observer in 2017 that they’ve “tried to be good stewards” for the shopping center and community. As of January 2018, there’s no word for what will take the place of the former theatre, though the building itself will stay standing.

Next up: An effort to keep the Panthers at their current Uptown location in response to talks about building a new stadium closer to the state line on Carowinds Boulevard.

Inezmarie Graci, the voice behind the petition, writes that the love the city has for its team is “different,” and that moving the team would cost attendees their easy access to games while impacting local businesses.

With a goal of 100 signatures, the petition will be delivered to, among others, Governor Roy Cooper, Mayor Vi Lyles and billionaire Bruton Smith.

But the question is this: Do online petitions such as this one actually make a difference?

Victories include officials taking a look at implementing a road diet in Plaza Midwood and seeing the reinstallation of SouthPark Mall’s Christmas tree, but countless other petitions, no matter how important, often seem to get a large number of signatures before stalling out, like this one that aimed to protect those with disabilities. Two years on, despite 30,000+ signatures, the organizer was still asking if there will ever be justice for her daughter, who was sexually assaulted.

Change.org cites 1 victory per hour, spanning 25,000+ victories in 19 countries, but in Charlotte, it’s unclear how many petitions have truly made a change, as it’s rare to see them cited in decisions.

Even so, these petitions, at the very least, bring the conversation to the table.

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Kylie Moore
Writer doubling as a travel, wine, and Oxford Comma enthusiast.