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The Ragged Edge A Walking Sign Of The Times

Profile: Jon Tuning

Grab your voter card and hang on.

The Breathing Billboard is marching up Monroe Street making right for you.

“If I can just talk to you and get you thinking, that’s two people,” says Jon Tuning, holding a homemade sign on a broomstick.

Vote, it says.

Forty years of adulthood, he never did. Not in the Air Force and Marines, not in Vietnam, California, Nevada or Minnesota. Too busy. Even after retiring, he didn’t vote, he stomped.

“I walked around blaming the system. Then I blamed elected officials and then I looked in the mirror and said: ‘You!”’

It happened in 1992 when Ross Perot got him to see the problem: apathetic or uninformed voters. Perot’s political heart may have fizzled. Tuning’s took off.

He came home from his first time at the polls and with his wife, Marjorie, helped established United We Stand America in Washington state.

In Spokane where he had moved five years ago, he joined the John Birch Society, the Libertarian Party, and campaigns hard for the Republican Party.

“Republicans are a visible outward sign of what’s in my head, but it’s not enough,” says the self-declared independent.

So at 67, he’s stomping for initiatives to lower property taxes, stuffing envelopes for statehouse candidates and when voter turnout is laughably small, taking to the streets with a homemade sign.

“My wife said, ‘Don’t yell at me, I voted,”’ he says. “So this is my way of yelling at everyone else.”

An avowed federalist and constitutional conservative, Tuning believes the current system is so far from the one envisioned by the founding fathers that it’s dangerous.

He fears the powers of the national government allow it to do things that individuals would be imprisoned for: take your money and give it to someone else, invade your privacy, accumulate crippling debt.

Each morning, he hoists the Stars and Stripes from his North Side porch.

“I want to fly that flag as long as I’m able to,” he said. “That’s how serious this is.”

Tuning fears the country will fall, “not to an armed aggressor,” but “to a monstrous overriding debt.”

When that debt becomes untenable, some entity, possibly through the United Nations, will pay it off at the cost of U.S. sovereignty.

So Tuning is calling for welfare reform and a balanced budget in five years. He’d like cost of living increases on entitlements stopped. For too many middle-class Americans, such as retirees, those increases allow trips to Europe at the expense of the country.

He no longer even believes voting is enough. People should read more and become politically involved. He could spend hours discussing how, but few have time to listen.

“Everybody is in such a hurry to hang on to what they have and accumulate more, they’re going to lose it all. It makes me want to cry. Our country, our freedoms are going down the biggest hole in the universe and we’re not paying attention.”

So he hands out copies of “Twenty-eight ideas that changed the World,” a constitutionalist’s view of American principles. He steps out of the shower to scribble down political points and uses those scraps of paper to build letters to the editor and to Congress. He rises at 5 a.m. to get everything done and many days, it’s not early enough.

“I’m trying to change the world,” he says. “And from Spokane that’s quite a chore.”

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: 2 Color Photo