Monday, April 28, 2008

Harvard University Signs on City-Owned Street Light poles

The City Manager of Cambridge fined The Riverside Neighborhood Association $300 for posting signs on street light poles that the city purchased from the utility company. Cambridge Chronicle story here
Harvard organizations also post signs on the street light poles in and around their campus. Why is Harvard immune from fines for violations of the same law? Here is the most recent instance of selective enforcement of laws (unequal protection of laws) by the City Manager who runs the city with no oversight. Ordinary citizens have their rights to free expression curbed by public officials while wealthy corporations (Harvard has $35 billion) can ignore the same laws.
[City Ordinance on posting fliers on public property]
Section 9.04.050 Defacing public property.
A. No person shall post or attach, or directly or indirectly cause to be posted or attached in any manner, any handbill, poster, advertisement or notice of any kind on public property except by permission of the City Manager or his designee, or on private property without the consent of the owner or occupant thereof.
B. Any handbill or sign found posted or otherwise affixed on any public property contrary to the provisions of this section may be removed by the Police Department or the Department of Public Works or the Inspectional Services Department.
C. The person or persons responsible for causing the unlawful posting of any notice described herein will be liable for the cost of removal and for the penalties described below. Persons liable under this section include, but are not limited to, any individual, corporation, partnership or other organization whose advertisement, message or information appears on the unlawfully posted notice.
D. Any person who violates this section shall be subject to a fine of three hundred dollars. Each illegally posted notice, advertisement, poster or sign shall be considered a separate violation of this section, and a separate offense shall be deemed committed on each day during or on which a violation of this section occurs or continues.
E. As an alternative to the penalty set forth in subsection D, whoever violates any provision of this section shall be penalized by a noncriminal disposition as provided in G.L., c. 40, §21D. For purposes of this section, the following officials shall be enforcing persons: Cambridge Police Officers and designated staff of the Cambridge Department of Public Works and the Inspectional Services Department.
Then noncriminal penalty for the first violation of this section shall be twenty-five dollars; for the second violation, one hundred dollars; and for the third and all subsequent violations, two hundred dollars. (Ord. 1138, 1992)


Anonymous said...

because the harvard campus is private property? Duh?

Diogenes said...

Duh? Not quite. The street light pole is on a public sidewalk. Moreover the City of Cambridge owns the pole. The issue is selective enforcement. Light poles owned by Harvard are not covered by the alleged city ordinance. This one is not on Harvard property.

Pierce said...

so are you for the new rule, or against it? Either way, fine, but its rather faulty, first grade-ish logic to argue against it by pointing and saying "they did it too!!!" Argue for what you believe in, or is your argument not so much about the law but equal enforcement of any law? If so, you could find many more compelling cases than this.

Bottom line, why do you care that college kids are papering lightpoles? I think you don't, so why not make the effort of arguing against this silly enforcement overall rather than just being childish?

t.s. said...

I'd like to know what the fliers were for. Were they for alerting and/or organizing the community regarding Harvard's expansion in the Riverside area?

Diogenes said...

For Pierce:
State law prohibits posting signs on public trees. It is not a new law. I'm not convinced that the city can fine people for posting on street light poles or telephone poles. What is new is enforcing laws at all. The City fined a neighborhood association, Riverside, $300 for posting notices about a meeting. That is what makes this issue current. Last year the City purchased the street light poles from NSTAR. If the city is fining a neighborhood association why should anyone be permitted to post signs without penalty? That is the issue for me. In a democracy we elect representatives to make the laws. In Cambridge laws are enforced arbitrarily, often only against certain people. There are "more compelling cases." My efforts to get attention of the voters were unsuccessful regarding more serious abuses. People do not care about laws unless they experience their enforcement. Posting signs is an issue for many persons in Cambridge at present. That is why I focused on it.

Diogenes said...

For T.S.:
Cambridge Chronicle reported that Riverside Neighborhood Association was "fined $300 for posting fliers for a neighborhood meeting."
Neighborhood Associations have regular meetings, and special meetings. Their agenda varies. Posting should not be dependent upon the content of the message. That is an odious idea.