Activist Kelly Canon may be best known for leading a successful grassroots effort to ban red-light cameras in her home city of Arlington. Yet the conservative leader’s activism spans a decade of local and state political involvement — and it continues today with an ongoing fight to “ban the cams” in Fort Worth.
Canon is a proud eighth-generation Texan, thanks to the foresight of her Air Force dad. Stationed in New York at the time, he made sure her mom returned to her parents’ home in Palestine, Texas to have Kelly. “He wasn’t about to have his first born be a New Yorker!” Canon says.
She’s lived in Arlington about 20 years, where she works as an interior space planner. Canon’s second “job” is volunteering for conservative causes and candidates at the local and state level. Asked why she’s so involved, Canon answers, “Why wouldn’t I be?”
But Canon wasn’t always involved in politics – or even a conservative Republican.
“I used to be a clueless un-involved Democrat,” says Canon. “I was raised that way, so I blame my parents!”
Canon says she made her “hard-right turn” to the Republican side of the aisle on May 31, 2008:
“That was the day the DNC rules committee decided to award Obama delegates to the national convention for several states, where his name wasn’t even on their primary ballots! That opened my eyes right then and there, that this wasn’t the Democrat party I grew up in, or even my parents. My whole family turned Republican that year!”
With her new-found conservative enthusiasm, Canon first turned to local Tea Party groups and became heavily active in local and state politics.
“I learned. I researched. But most importantly, I discovered the benefits of networking,” she said.
Just three years after getting into politics, Canon ran for Arlington City Council in 2011. She didn’t win, but she did get to experience what it was like to be a candidate. “It’s not easy!” she says.
Canon also became more involved with the Republican party, and she attended three GOP state conventions as a delegate.
Canon says one of her favorite volunteer jobs was campaigning for Arlington State Rep. Tony Tinderholt — especially his first Republican primary victory in 2014 against an entrenched incumbent, Diane Patrick. She calls her time spent block walking, sign-planting, and poll working an “amazing experience.”
“My time as an activist for Tinderholt was my way of supporting his campaign, because I didn’t have much money to donate,” she said. “So, I donated my time.”
“And he’s been voted the most conservative representative in the State House two sessions in a row,” Canon added. “I’m very proud of that!”
Canon has achieved her own recognition as a conservative champion. She was awarded a Conservative Leader Award by Empower Texans in 2014.
By that time, Canon says red-light cameras had grabbed her attention. In July of 2013, she received her first red-light camera ticket.
“I paid that ticket, but never again! I did a lot of research on them, and the whole thing really opened my eyes,” she said.
Canon decided to fight against the unconstitutional ticketing cameras, joining with Faith Bussey and a team of like-minded activists to circulate a petition calling for a citywide vote to ban red-light cameras in Arlington.
Organized as Citizens For a Better Arlington, the group used a provision of the Local Government Code that allows ordinary citizens to “fight city hall” by petitioning their local government and forcing the city to hold an election to change its charter.
“The rest was easy,” she said. “When you have such an incredible team, combined with such a heated issue, the fight is easy.”
By January 2015, Canon’s group had gathered more than enough signatures on their petition to force a city charter election, and in May 2015, Arlington voters overwhelmingly approved a red-light camera ban.
Right now, Canon is working on a campaign to get red-light cameras out of Fort Worth, using the same petition method as in Arlington. She says it’s a monumental effort:
“Ultimately, I’m hoping we can finally get red-light cameras banned statewide next year. During the past three legislative sessions, we were met with several road blocks due to poor House leadership, which thankfully will NOT be there next year! It gives us hope. This is my ultimate wish — to ban the red-light cameras across Texas. You fight until you finish!”
Canon’s Fort Worth group is organizing on Facebook, but she says more volunteers are needed to help collect petition signatures if they’re going to reach their goal of 25,000 signature by July 3.
Whether it’s a local effort to rein in government overreach or a statewide political campaign, Canon advises Texans who want to make a difference to start small and just keep going:
“Learn to effectively debate your position, but listen to the counter arguments, so that you can counter them back. Be respectful. Don’t bite off more than you can chew, but don’t be afraid to try.
“Find your passion. Discover what motivates you, and build on that. Seek out like-minded people who share your passion.
“Always do your research. Know your issue(s) backwards and forwards. Cherish those who lend you and your cause a helping hand.”
“I guarantee you, the hard work does pay off. But you have to be willing to do the hard work. Don’t wait for the other guy to do it. You do it. And maybe — just maybe — a few others will want to help! Be an example for others!”
Great advice from Canon, who is herself a great example for others.