LETTERS TO THE EDITOR - Justice, democracy and the octopus

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The Inland Octopus mural demonstrates that legal rules and justice may not always be the same thing. It also demonstrates how confused a discussion can get.

Mr. Granstaff's comparison with the mural on the water tower (that mural does not promote a specific business) and his mention that the city is failing to enforce other ordinances (city, county, state?), though perhaps true, are irrelevant.

Is the ordinance and its enforcement legal or just? Are the provisions of the ordinance reasonable and proper? Can the City pass an ordinance that sets arbitrary limits (150-feet in size per street frontage) on a sign? No mention has been made of having this ordinance approved by citizens, or even whether this isn't an issue of censorship.

Determining the definition of "central commercial district" (referenced in City Attorney Donaldson's memo to the City Council of Oct. 7) can be deemed as somewhat arbitrary, as are other provisions of the ordinances (25 percent of the wall area). Is the definition of "sign" reasonable? Note that the art work itself does not contain any literal mention of the store.

Are any means specified anywhere to deal with individual cases, or is this a "one size fits all" ordinance?

Cannot the ordinance be applied in a reasonable fashion in each and every case that it is invoked? The answer to the city's question -- "What do we do the next time this issue comes up?" -- is deal with the issue on a one-by-one basis of reasonableness and citizen input. A decision has been made that the ordinance has been violated. The question remains, in Mr. Donaldson's words, for the city to "take any necessary enforcement action."

My recommendation is to fine the owner for violating the ordinance, and then declare (as the Supreme Court did in Bush v. Gore) that a decision to allow the mural does not set a precedent.

The action taken will determine whether or not the city can truly demonstrate the principles of justice and democracy. Let the citizens recommend an action. In Mr. Donaldson's words, let's enjoy "the whimsical hiding octopus."

Dick Swenson
Walla Walla

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