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A dispute over political signs posted near a community garden

AK October 9, 2009 2:41 p.m.

To whom it may concern:

As a resident of NE Minneapolis, I was disappointed to find your political signs in the garden lot at SE corner of Lowry and Central Aves. N.E. While the property is privately owned, the garden was created through the cooperation of many different community groups and businesses. While Tom and Colleen have every right to place political signs on their property, it seems inappropriate to see such signs on land that has been touted as being for the community's enjoyment.

I am asking you to remove your signs from that parcel. If Tom and Colleen wish to have the signs plastered all over their private business building, that is certainly within their right. I just ask that you leave the public-created space alone.

Thank you for your attention to this matter.


Bill McGaughey October 9, 2009 7:03 p.m.

I am puzzled by what happened. If you are talking about the New Dignity Party signs, I put up practically all the signs myself and did not put any at that location. How many signs were there anyhow? I'll stop by soon and remove them.


AK October 9, 2009 9:38 p.m.

2 or 3 perhaps along the outside perimeter? Thank you. I noticed them for the first time today.


Bill McGaughey October 10, 2009 12:27 p.m.

You were right. There were two campaign sings on that corner lot. I did not put them there and I do not know who did. Our policy is to ask permission both of the property owner and, where appropriate, of tenants as well. This obviously was not done here. Sorry. The signs have been removed.


AK October 10, 2009 7:07 p.m.

I did notice that this afternoon.

Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter. I suspect that because the Ranallo campaign put unauthorized signs (at least when I asked the property owner about it they said they had not authorized signage in the garden area) in there people think it's open for whomever.

Have a nice day.


Bill McGaughey Ocdtober 23, 3009 10:01 a.m.

After calling several persons who had campaign signs, I located someone who said he had placed the signs there. He is John Butler, one of the candidates advertised in the sign. Butler said he had talked with Tom (who owns Moler's barber shop) and had received permission to post the signs. My initial understanding was that the signs had been posted without asking permission. I was asked to remove them because you thought they were "unauthorized" or "inappropriate". If John Butler's statement to me is correct, they were authorized. When I removed the signs, they were not in the garden area but along the periphery. Whether this is appropriate seems to me to be in the eye of the beholder. My present intention is to put the signs up again, but I wait for your response.


AK October 13, 2009 11:30 a.m.

Okay. Here is my understanding of the situation. I initially stopped in to express to Tom and Colleen that I felt it inappropriate to have all those signs for Larry Ranallo plastered all over the garden (perhaps I was confusing in that description initially and I apologize for that - I don't think I'd even seen your signs yet). I explained that I understood that they owned the parcel of land but that, because the garden area has been publicly touted as a "community" garden, it seems inappropriate for political signage or paraphernalia to be located there. The space, while technically owned by Tom and Colleen, was created through the partnership of Edison high school, local neighborhoods, and local businesses. As a member-owner of the Eastside Food Co-op, one of the businesses that supported the creation of the garden, I don't want a space that my business supports and helped create to be used for any political purposes - periphery or not. It's a little different, in my opinion, than if they chose to plaster their very clearly private business building with political signs.

So perhaps it is in the eye of the beholder. Technically there's no reason why you can't put up the signs again. However, there is the factor of respecting that many members of the community came together to create a lovely space. I've heard from several who are not pleased and feel it inappropriate to see political signs in that space. So, I guess the decision is up to you and Mr. Butler. To your credit at least you've been nice enough to have a dialogue with me when the Ranallo campaign has not even bothered to respond.

Thank you.


Bill McGaughey October 24, 2009 8:59 a.m.

If there is a way to reach the groups involved in the community garden, I'd like to ask permission to repost the two signs along the periphery of the garden for the three weeks remaining in the campaign period. Thanks.


AK October 14, 2009 2:12 p.m.

I believe there's a sign on Tom and Colleen's building - I don't have a list off the top of my head. But I know Edison High School was a big player. There was also a small article in the Northeaster newspaper that listed some of the participants.


Bill McGaughey October 25, 2009 2:27 p.m.

As a candidate who is actively campaigning for mayor, I don't have time right now to research all the people or groups who are involved with the community garden with an eye to gaining permission from them all to post lawn signs in a particular location. My partners in the campaign think the signs should be reposted since we have the land owner's permission.

With respect to rental housing, I try to get the tenant's permission to post lawn signs even if the property owner has consented because this is the person's home and the sign could be construed as indicating the resident's political preference. Community gardens are a different situation. Many people or groups share this plot of land. There is anonymity here with respect to politics.

I'm not sure whether or not you have a contract with the property owner that relates to this situation or what organizational entity is involved. However, I do not believe that any single person using the garden or any group of such people short of the entire group can exercise a veto over use of the land when the property owner has given consent. I try to be fair and respectful of people's wishes but, at the same time, not give way to requests to silence legitimate political speech.

Communication between candidates and voters by lawn signs is a long-standing tradition in our community which most people accept. It is of particular value to candidates who cannot afford expensive television advertising. I fail to see how posting two 18" by 24" signs on the periphery of the plot for a limited period of time causes any injury to people using the garden. This is not "plastering" as I understand the term.

You and your colleagues who were upset by the lawn signs can express your disapproval by voting against the candidates, including myself, whose names appear on the signs. They have been gone for nearly a week but will shortly reappear. I pledge, of course, to remove the signs permanently not long after the November 3rd election.


AK October 15, 2009 6:09 p.m.

Well, then it seems you could at least contact the group from Edison High School who did all the work on the plot. Siwek lumber donated materials so it might be appropriate to contact their owner as well. They were two major players in the improvement of the land. I would guess there was no contract with Tom and Colleen as to whether or not political signage could go up - more than likely nobody thought of it when they did the work last spring.

I also don't think asking you to keep political signs out of a community-built space is a silencing of political speech. You've got every opportunity to ask people and business owners if they want to post your signs. You can take out ads, you can participate in debates, you can campaign and hold rallies. I'm just asking you, as a resident of this NE community, to leave this space alone.

I am also going to follow up with Tom and Colleen - when I spoke with them originally they indicated that they did not agree to political signs in the actual garden space. If I misunderstood what they meant, then I want to hear it from them.

Thank you.


The two signs were put back near the sidewalk of Central Avenue and Lowry Avenues. Two weeks later, when it came time to pick up the signs after the election, they were gone.