The Coast News Group
Arts Alive organizer Danny Salzhandler (left) submits a revised application to Assistant City Manager Richard Phillips Thursday on the Arts Alive banners that currently hang throughout the city. The Encinitas City Council voted in Wednesday’s session to OK removing the blue tape that covers the image of late Councilwoman Maggie Houlihan on the backs of the banners. Photo by Tony Cagala

Council OKs Houlihan’s image on banners

ENCINITAS — Under threat of litigation, the City Council voted 4-1 to permit organizers of the Arts Alive program to submit a new application that would allow for the image of late Councilwoman Maggie Houlihan to be unmasked from the back of the 101 banners currently hanging from city light posts.Ian Thompson, Houlihan’s widower, told the council on March 28 they were in violation of the first amendment by masking the image of the late councilwoman.He reiterated his legal arguments in a special closed session of the council on April 11.

“You’ve used the legal premise that per the city code, images of politicians are prohibited from appearing on banners that hang on city property,” Thompson told the council.

Councilman Mark Muir motioned to allow the applicant to resubmit the application with Houlihan’s image included, and directed staff to clarify the language of the code in question. Meanwhile all new applications for signage would be on hold. Mayor Stocks seconded the motion.

“I see this as a delaying tactic,” Councilwoman Teresa Barth said. She offered a substitute motion to allow the City Manager to rescind his decision and the organization would then be allowed to remove the stickers. It was not seconded. “I’ve been around long enough to know a delaying move when I see it.”

Deputy Mayor Kristin Gaspar opposed Muir’s motion, saying it was not in line with the city’s established “process” and would be viewed as “pandering to the threat of litigation.” Gaspar agreed with many of the speakers who lamented that the council had not officially honored Houlihan after her death in September.

“I don’t have an issue with the content on the banners; that’s Maggie’s image,” she said. But she said that since the applicant, Arts Alive organizer Danny Salzhandler, chose not to submit the final application with Houlihan’s depiction on the back, and chose instead to cover it with adhesive, the process wasn’t followed.

Organizers of the decades-old banner project had sought to have the likeness of Houlihan appear on the backs of the banners in memoriam of the councilwoman. City Manager Gus Vina had denied the banners during the permitting process, referring to a city code and saying that the image of a political figure would not fit within that language. As a result, organizers decided to place a vinyl sticker over the likeness.

In letters to the council from the Coast Law Group and the ACLU, attorneys argued that the decision amounts to “viewpoint” decision-making and is a violation of the first amendment.

Thompson said after the meeting that he was disappointed that it took a private citizen to threaten litigation to bring the issue to light with the council. He had no doubt that the “culture at city hall” was one that required staff to “tow the line” of the council majority’s wishes. “I know because I’ve had an insider,” he said, referring to Houlihan.

Salzhandler raced to the meeting and obtained a new application and said he would submit it April 12. Vina said during the meeting that it should take no longer than a day to approve the new application.

The banners are set to be auctioned in May.



One of the Knaves April 15, 2012 at 9:59 am

The mylar patches are being taken down as we speak, though in hushed tones, lest one of the king’s henchmen lurks in these parts. This is truly a victory for the common knave, and Our Lady of Encinitas is smiling down and chuckling right now.

No honor April 12, 2012 at 2:46 pm

“But she,(Gaspar), said that since the applicant, Arts Alive organizer Danny Salzhandler, chose not to submit the final application with Houlihan’s depiction on the back, and chose instead to cover it with adhesive, the process wasn’t followed.”
This is not what truly occurred. The Banner application was rejected by the city manager because the image Of Houlihan was on the back. All of the banners were printed with Houlihan’s image and her birth and death date. The tape was put on after the city REJECTED the permit. To have the city say that the permit was not rejected, as the council stated, is NOT TRUE and despicable. All who have been involved with the Arts Alive Banner program know that Stocks has been the driving force behind fighting anyone from honoring Mrs. Houlihan. His efforts began with not flying the city hall flag at half-mast and having the city reject a park permit that family, friends and citizens requested for a memorial at Cottonwood Creek Park. They held the memorial anyway.
Encinitas should be embarrassed by the actions of Stocks and Gaspar.

Meeting Witnesses April 15, 2012 at 8:46 pm

As you are clearly a conspiracy boogeyman believer I know I won’t alter your warped opinion, but it’s obvious from the testimony at the meeting that had Danny Salzhandler simply appealed a denial by staff months ago this could have been handled much sooner.
The City staff simply made a determination and if the permit applicant disagreed with it they should have appealed, which is their right.
Instead they submitted an application without the beautiful image of our dear Maggie.
It’s their fault, not the City Council’s that this went down the way it did!
It’s clear and simple, and any other opinion is just politically spun bull!!!

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