Friday, July 30, 2021

Upcoming Council Meeting 8.3.21

There are a few significant items being discussed at the next council meeting:
  • Discussion on protocol and policy around using taxpayer funds for recognition of citizens, volunteers, employees and elected officials.
  • Discussion of the rejection of liability for damage caused by a city owned tree that fell and impacted a residential fence and house.
  • Discussion regarding updating the list of cultural heritage months and other significant events that the city recognizes.
  • Discussion regarding potential changes to the city's sign ordinance, specifically around temporary non-commercial signs. 

    Prior to 2019, the city had restrictive sign ordinances that limited any temporary non-commercial signs to 3 square feet per parcel.  This meant that if an individual wished to exercise their right to speech, they could only do so with a sign that was no larger than for example, 1.5' x 2'.  That was overly restrictive and upon receiving complaints, enforcement of that policy was suspended.

    The Council took up this issue at the 2.5.19 meeting.  At that time, the Council decided to update the sign ordinance to be more permissive, adopting a restriction on individual signs greater than16 sqft with no aggregate limit.  Recently some folks in town have chosen to express themselves with many signs, well in excess of the prior to 2019 limit, but consistent with the current ordinances.  Now we will discuss if modifications are necessary to address any ongoing concerns.

    I will reiterate my previous position as it remains unchanged:

    Staff discussed several cases where the issue of sign size was limited and provided overall guidance on what had previously been struck down and what had been upheld in the courts.  There was a sentiment to avoid sign blight, the city should adopt an ordinance as restrictive as possible as to size that is consistent with the law.  I took a different approach here.  I think the first amendment and speech are critically important.  The protections over speech are not necessary to express views that are popular.  Free speech protections are needed for expressing views that are unpopular.  It is in protecting unpopular speech that we demonstrate our principles.  Any time speech is being restricted I would challenge the basis on which such restrictions rest upon.  

    And while I personally would not want to see the city littered with signs of all manner, the principle of free speech supersedes my desire for aesthetics.  Ultimately the Council directed staff to come back with a draft ordinance that limits individual signs to no greater than 16 sqft, without any aggregate limit and no time based limit.  The vote was 4-1, I was opposed because I would have not imposed such a restriction.

    I look forward to the discussion, again. 

If you have any thoughts or questions regarding these items please let me know.