Monday, June 12, 2006

Airing Things Out With Euclid

Today's commentary is a follow-up to my previous post about Euclid, Ohio and their law restricting window drapings. I e-mailed Euclid Councilperson Conway a copy of my commentary and he was kind enough to share his insights about what the Council was trying to accomplish (see comment section). Whether we ultimately agree or not, this type of thoughtful dialog is relevant and important. I thank him for taking the time to respond.

Like many communities Euclid is concerned about property values and that's understandable. Property value determines a large part of the tax base for a community and there's no disputing that it's important. It funds schools and other essential public services. Encouraging pride in a community and attempting to preserve the revenue base that funds these services is a noble goal. My quibble is with their methodology.

Feeling that the story may have been taken out of context in the media, Mr. Conway was kind enough to e-mail me the full text of the law. It states, "All interior window coverings, hardware and mechanisms shall be maintained in good repair and working order. No person shall utilize plywood, blankets, newspaper, flags, banners, signs or other building materials not intended or designed as window treatments as permanent window covering." While I am not an attorney or a constitutional scholar, I believe it could be argued that this law violates privacy rights, rights, which the Supreme Court established under the 9th Amendment. Further, by disallowing banners, flags and signs, the law almost certainly violates 1st Amendment rights pertaining to Freedom of Speech. After all, how does one determine if the items is intended as a window covering or as a political statement?

I do not know the socio-economic breakdown of the neighbourhoods in Euclid. I would hazard a guess, however, that those who are using materials as window treatments that have not been designed for that purpose are those least likely to be able to afford "proper treatments." By threatening a $1,000 fine and 6 months in jail, it seems plausible that Euclid is on the verge of punishing people for being poor.

Councilperson Conway comes across as a good man and I'm sure that the other members of the Council are similarly well intentioned. I encourage and challenge them to find a way to achieve their goal of maintaining a strong revenue base, in a manner that does not infringe on Constitutional rights or disenfranchise their poorer residents.


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