Letter to the District Attorney
One question is whether it is worth the taxpayers' money for Schunk's office to respond. We'll find out. My money is on no response. How about yours?
Here's what I wrote:
I read the C1 Metro story in yesterday's Oregonian with particular interest as I regularly remove signs placed illegally on utility poles in our neighborhood of Hillsdale. In my car, I carry a long pipe, which I use to swat down signs placed beyond normal reach. As a courtesy, I often phone the numbers on the signs to inform sign owners that their signs are illegally placed on the poles and that I have taken them down. I also ask that they cease putting them up in our neighborhood, adding pointedly that because of the ordinance forbidding the signs, there could be a penalty associated with the postings. In other words, I may report repeated postings to the authorities. Then appealing to sweet reason and civic pride, I further note that if every business posted signs on our utility poles, the entire city would be a blighted maze of signs. Hence the anti-posting ordinance. I "personalize" the issue with this question: How would you like every pole in your neighborhood were covered with signs? Now, if I read The Oregonian story correctly, your office questions the constitutionality of the ordinance and has decided not to prosecute violations of it. Obviously that undercuts my argument to violators. Indeed, it may serve as an open invitation for hundreds, if not thousands, of businesses, to post all shapes and sizes of signs on Portland's utility poles, which, if I am correct, are actually owned by the utilities (Does that make them private property?) So here are some questions? If I remove these signs, which you seem to deem constitutionally legal, am I guilty of theft? Or are they considered "abandoned property" like litter in the public right-of-way, which I can legally remove? Why did the City Attorney not alert the council to the constitutionality issue when the council passed this measure? Certainly someone must have raised "First Amendment" questions. Is graffiti written on public property also protected? Are those of us who remove it guilty of some crime? If graffiti were written on a placard and placed in the public right of way, would it be legal? Would obscenity make a difference? Portland may be weird, but is it THAT weird? And what about the small stand-alone signs on wire frames which are often put up at important intersections by 1-800-Got-Junk and JobDango? (I remove those as well, using the arguments mentioned above.) If the ordinance is indeed unconstitutional, what is to prohibit the kind of massive signage blight I am describing? I do not want to get into the content of the (anti-police) message in question in the Oregonian story, but it is easy to see that a back and forth between contentious groups would add immensely to the signage problem. Finally, and as an aside, I voluntarily remove these signs to protect the neighborhood from blight. I have often thought that the city should fine and bill the owners of the signs for removal with the money being contributed to the neighborhood association affected and whose volunteers have removed the signs. I look forward to a response from your office regarding this matter.