Vail Daily letter: Town of Vail out of line
November 8, 2012
Government of any stripe cannot abridge freedom of speech, whether it be verbal or via displayed through signage. A political statement promoting one candidate over another for public office is a time honored and protected form of speech, even in the town of Vail.
“Public property” is said to be owned by the people as a commons or held in trust by the government for the common benefit of all candidates for public office, whether or not some may abuse the rights of others.
To deny all candidates the use and benefit of public property to facilitate their rights of free speech because of the transgressions of a few miscreants would be a breach of this trust obligation. Public property is not a property right of the government, and then in turn to be licensed to the people for their use.
On Election Day, voting sites are universally located on public property, including within the town. It follows that if there were election law violations taking place near or on such public premises, could the town ban the use of public property for polling purposes?
Were the public streets of the town to be impacted by the traffic infractions or public protestations of a few on Election Day, would it be proper for the town to close such avenues?
It is commendable that there are a few private property owners who do facilitate a free and open election process by making available to all candidates the use of their properties for the display of signage, and yes, even in the face of abuse by a few.
Should we hold the town (with its police powers) to a lower standard of conduct than the private property owner who of necessity must rely on the town police power to protect and facilitate first amendment rights of the candidates on private property? The answer is obvious.
Public employees should revisit their job descriptions, civic duties and constitutional oaths for a better solution than simply shutting down public property for campaign purposes. Perhaps another and better solution would be to exercise its police powers by shutting down the perpetrators and abusers themselves. This would be no novel or mean thing to accomplish.