A sign of the arrogant times



It’s the attitude that gets me.

To the bureaucratic mind, profit is an obscenity, free speech is offensive and a sense of humor is repugnant.

The latest example of this mindset comes courtesy of the Washington Examiner and our friends at the Institute for Justice. In an op-ed piece IJ attorney Robert Frommer reports that a mural painted on a wall of a doggie daycare and grooming business has run into the jaws and claws of Arlington County, Va., zoning authorities.

Kim Houghton, owner of Wag More Dogs, committed the unpardonable sin of not getting the indulgence of her masters in government before spending $4,000 to have a mural of cartoon dogs, bones and paw prints painted on the side of her building facing an adjacent dog park.

The county zoning administrator has forced her to cover the mural, because … wait for it … it is an illegal sign. Houghton says she was told she could paint dragons, ponies or flowers on her wall, but nothing related to her chosen vocation.

That, to the First Amendment, is original sin. Government may not ban speech, and a mural is most assuredly speech, based solely on its content.

“What has happened to Kim and Wag More Dogs is the inevitable result of a legal system that gives government officials absolute discretion to treat entrepreneurs with disdain,” Frommer writes in the Examiner op-ed piece. “Arlington broadly defines a ‘sign’ as anything that ‘is used to direct, identify, or inform the public.’ This standard is both hopelessly vague and requires officials to rigorously inspect not only a painting’s message but the identity of the person who put it up.

“This is flatly unconstitutional. The First Amendment does not let government officials play art critic or decide what speech to burden based on who is doing the talking.”

IJ is filing a lawsuit to seek to strike the unconstitutional law.

Meanwhile, the mural is draped with an ugly blue tarp.