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Sign police

One of the odd things about having an opinion to share with all of you here every week is the fact that many of you end up thinking I am in charge of something. If I comment on a situation, readers seem to think that they can tell me their opinion of my opinion and then we will all be on the same page. That may or may not be the case.

Here is one example of a community situation about which I have a definite opinion, but about which I have never written because I figured it would just be easier to avoid than to bring it to the table of community discussion. Once, several years ago, I did comment on this very issue. My opinion then was that of a private citizen, not as the author of the opinion column in the local newspaper, but somehow that fact got lost in the shuffle.

There is a sign in the middle of the intersection of Walnut St. and Second St. The current sign was designed and paid for by a local women’s service and social organization, Sorosis Beta, to provide a place for individuals, clubs, churches, student groups, and other non-profit organizations to advertise their upcoming events and fundraisers.

To my knowledge no person or organization is in charge of the sign. Nor is the city in charge of the sign or what is posted there. The sign is available for any of the above listed groups or individuals to use. Of course, not everything goes as it should when we count on the agreement of all community members about any given thing — such as the use of that sign.

A number of years ago a business commandeered the sign to advertise its own promotions on poster-sized notices on both sides of the sign. For months no one else had a chance to post any community activities, fundraisers, or events. While folks grumbled amongst themselves about the lack of cooperation, no one spoke up to the business owner in question.

Since he and I had what I thought was a good working relationship, I asked him to share the space with others. He said no, he needed the sign to keep the public informed about his business events. I then complained to the city council and, as sometimes happens, they chose to do nothing — it was not their deal. Things went from complicated to ugly in a hurry and in the end no definitive decision was made by anyone. The businessman eventually sold his business and left town and things returned to normal.

Well, until recently. Apparently since I opened my mouth about this issue several years ago, some of you think I am the Sign Police. I actually do get calls and comments about who should or should not post their events on the sign, who uses the sign in all four corners on both sides “as if they own it,” who hangs huge posters and leaves them for weeks after their event is over, as well as complaints about the sticky tape residue others have left behind. Do I care about any of that? Not really. I would think that anyone using the sign to promote a non-profit fundraiser would be willing to share the space with any other organization in the community.

Okay, my understanding of the “Ongoing Downtown Sign Debate?” Here is what I think the intent is for use of the sign — again, this is just my opinion. If you are a non-profit organization, an individual or church holding a garage sale, a group with an event you want the public to attend, or any similar activity, you have a right to post the information on the sign in the middle of the intersection at Walnut St. and Second St. If you are a business, you do not.

Finally, here is a gentle reminder of a little housekeeping issue for those of you who do use it. Take down your posters when your event is over; that is part of your responsibility as someone who gets to make use of the sign. Clean up after yourself and share the space with others.

— SUSAN MARSHALL

Last modified March 6, 2014

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