On Thursday at the High Springs City Commission meeting, the board considered regulating the creation of murals on city property.
City Commissioner Katherine Weitz proposed the issue to the board due to public concern over “wall dogs,” or artists who paint murals on city property.
“The overwhelming side in opposition far outweighs, for me, the side that is in support of it,” Weitz said. “None of that has anything to do with anyone personally by any means.”
If enacted, a mural ordinance would only apply to city property; it cannot interfere with mural projects on private property under most circumstances. However, if the group or organization asks for money, serves alcohol or portrays content relating to hate or violence–it is then legally under the city’s jurisdiction.
City officials recognize a mural ordinance may be controversial, and therefore, intend to take into account public opinion, as well as the board’s.
Commissioner Linda Jones reaffirms that the city would like to have a say in what can be displayed.
“It wouldn’t matter the group that was coming before us, whether it would be ‘wall dogs’ or whatever,” said Jones. “I don’t think a small group of people should be able to come into the city, fill out a permit, and do whatever they want – and we as a commission have nothing to do with it.”
However, the First Amendment prevents some form of regulation. Still, there are some areas in the city code where regulations of murals on city property can be enacted.
Board members also recognize that the time and energy to consider a mural ordinance has detracted city resources from other important issues.
“The amount of time that this one issue has taken from city staff would be hard to calculate because it has been so much,” Weitz said. “We got to get the city staff back to the business of water, sewer, and roads. Those are the things I think we need to focus on right now, and their time has been completely co-opted by this one small group of people.”
The board clarified that an item to prevent “wall dogs” from painting murals in the city cannot be placed on a ballot and the city is not and will not fund any murals to be painted.
If an ordinance were to be created, it will need to be content-neutral and explain why specific regulations are included. Those in support of murals and those who might be producing the content for them were not present at the meeting.
Despite support for a mural ordinance, a draft has yet to be produced.