My letter to the Town Clerk
On a recent visit to the Town Hall, there was a sign in the window that read:
Distribution of handbills in Town Meetings prohibited
OV Town Code 10-9
I have reviewed the Town Code (Article 10-9 Handbills) and I have a few questions as some of the laws stated in this Article do not make sense and some are contradictory.
10-9-1: INTENT AND PURPOSE:
This section states that it is written "To protect the people against the health and safety menace and the expense incident to the littering of the streets and public places by the promiscuous and uncontrolled distribution of advertising matter..." I agree that littering the streets could be considered a menace, however, how would handing out flyers to individuals at town meetings who willingly accept them be considered a health and safety menace or promiscuous and uncontrolled distribution?
It goes on to say "To preserve the people's constitutional right to receive and disseminate information." This does not make sense. How is the town preserving our First Amendment right to distribute handbills at town meetings by preventing us from engaging in that right?
10-9-4: THROWING HANDBILLS IN PUBLIC PLACES PROHIBITED
This section states that "it shall be unlawful for any person to deposit, place, throw, scatter...any...handbill in or upon any public place within the town."
With regards to handing a flyer directly to a person, it says, “it shall not be unlawful for any person to hand out or distribute…any…handbill in any public place to any person willing to accept such handbill.”
10-9-7: DISTRIBUTION OF HANDBILLS WHERE PROHIBITION PROPERLY POSTED
This section states that "it shall be unlawful for any person to distribute, deposit, place, throw, scatter...any...handbill upon any premises” if a notice is placed prohibiting this action.
Although the town has now posted a sign prohibiting the distribution of handbills, it would be impossible to enforce the distribution of a handbill to a person since Section 4 states that it is not illegal to do so if the person is willing to accept the handbill. Additionally, placing a handbill "upon any premises" would appear to include only leaving it on a counter (premises) but would not include handing it to an individual (person).
As you can see, Section 4 and Section 7 are confusing, ambiguous, and contradictory. As such, Oro Valley residents should be allowed to distribute handbills to individuals prior to the start of town meetings since, according to the Town Code, this does not appear to be an illegal action.
I am requesting that the town answer the questions in red (above) and also advise on the contradictory statements in the Town Code.
Reading OV Town Code 10-9 invoked a comparison to modern day Russia where the State now controls the majority of media content. Obstructing people from something as simple as distributing handbills plays in to this kind of behavior by preventing citizens from having a voice in public matters. The words “promiscuous and uncontrolled distribution” are Orwellian in disposition.
What separates America from authoritarian regimes around the world (such as Russia, Venezuela and China) is our First Amendment. It guarantees freedom of religion, freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, and the right to petition.
What conclusions should we draw from the Town’s actions? Are they merely enforcing an old code or is there something more insidious going on? Why suddenly post the notice now, 15 years after its inception? Coincidence? I think not. The town felt no need to post this notice after a Hiremath supporter was handing out “I LOVE OVPD” stickers during a council meeting over a year ago.
Diane Peters has lived in Oro Valley since 2003, moving here to escape the humidity of the East Coast. She’s been involved in OV politics and development issues since 2006. In 2014, she organized a citizens group, Citizen Advocates of the Oro Valley General Plan, who over a 9-month period, successfully negotiated a controversial 200-acre development project slated for the LaCholla-Naranja-Lambert-Shannon area. In her past life, she worked in medical research at various University Hospitals in New England. Her interests include reading, writing, nature photography, travel, art galleries, museums, and politics.