Article Last Updated: 11/03/2005 05:33 AM
Political ad near Town Hall draws ire in San Anselmo
Marin Independent Journal
A controversial banner in downtown San
Anselmo kept town phone lines busy yesterday as angry residents complained
the town appeared to be pushing a political agenda.
Town Administrator Debbie Stutsman said she received
more than 40 phone calls from concerned residents about a banner above Tunstead
Avenue near Town Hall that reads "Yes on Prop. 73 - protect our daughters."
If Proposition 73 passes, minors would be prohibited from getting abortions
until 48 hours after a physician notifies the parent or legal guardian.
Longtime Marin County resident Jennifer Horch said she was offended when
she saw the banner. Horch, 34, thinks the town should not allow political
advertisements of any kind.
"First of all, I'm offended by the message," Horch said. "I
don't think there should be one saying 'No on Prop. 73,' either. It gives
the appearance that the city is endorsing a political campaign. Secondly,
I don't like that they're profiting from it, either. Accepting money for
it; I don't think that's right, either."
Groups must pay a fee of $280 for the banner space to promote events
for seven days.
Stutsman said the town has two official banner sites; the other is above
Sir Francis Drake Boulevard near the Recreation and Parks offices for use
by nonprofit organizations and other community and civic groups.
Stutsman said the town is not endorsing the political message, but allowing
town residents to express their right to free speech.
"What's unfortunate is that the people are blaming the town for
endorsing the sign," Stutsman said. "But what they don't realize
is we're prohibited from regulating signs based on their content. This is
about free speech, it's not about the town endorsing anything. No matter
what the opinion is, people should be able to express their divergent views."
Last week, a banner across Sir Francis Drake read "Yes on Measure
B." It was paid for by a committee endorsing the special municipal
services tax that residents will vote on during the election next week.
Stutsman said the banner was paid for by town residents John Newell and
George Bennetts. Attempts to reach the two men were unsuccessful.
San Anselmo town officials are not strangers to sign and banners controversies.
The town is currently in negotiations with San Anselmo resident Ford Greene
over his sign on the west side of his building at 711 Sir Francis Drake.
Greene is a candidate running for town council and currently has a sign
on his building which promotes his candidacy.
Greene and town officials are trying to work out a compromise on his
sign. In the meantime, town officials are working on a new sign ordinance
and have insisted on extending a moratorium on new permanent signs, including
murals and billboards, to Jan. 27.