I have lived here 27 years and have never seen so much outrage expressed about actions of the City of Yelm as have been posted this past weekend over White Horse Tavern receiving a letter from the Community Development Department that their American Flag banner was not in compliance with the Yelm Municipal Code. In one simple act, the City of Yelm has infuriated the very constituents with whom they seek to curry favor: Yelm businesses and our neighbors who serve in the military.
While the City of Yelm MAY have valid reasons for asking White Horse Tavern to bring their flag banner in compliance with city code [hanging a temporary banner longer than two weeks, their banner may be larger than 20 square feet], the timing of the letter on the eve of Yelm’s Prairie Days and subsequent July 4th weekend was an extremely poor decision.
Mayor Ron Harding’s survey of local businesses as to Yelm being “non-business friendly” is no longer needed – this letter to White Horse Tavern is totally consistent with the city’s behavior towards local businesses, and the city’s actions speak louder than words!
– Mayor Harding’s post added fuel to the fire, as “the buck did not stop at his desk.”
He posted this, in-part:
“Ok folks, this is Mayor Harding. Just to let you know I did not send the letter in question. I just learned about this tonight and have checked into the situation a bit to try and understand what may have prompted this.”
“I attempted to contact the Owner and let him know to disregard this letter until further notice so I could have time to fully understand the details behind the issue, however he has been unavailable.
I hope this will ease concerns.”
– White Horse Tavern posted this update at 11am Sunday, June 28:
“We have been given indication from city hall that the notice to White Horse may have been in error. We will learn more about the validity of this verbal communication tomorrow.”
– These 4 Facebook posts of almost 700 about the city’s letter say it all:
* “Time to start attending those boring city council meetings to get things right, what are they doing.”
* “If the letter was an error that was one boner of an error. It seems with the 4th coming up they are in compliance with the law. Were it mid August there may be a violation of the law …but it’s not, so basic logic has to win out; right?”
* “Have a patriotic heart Yelm.”
* “So our Mayor throws his staff under the bus in his first sentence-awesome leadership! You are the leader! Lead, accept responsibility, let the bar fly their dollar store banner and move on! Pathetic!”
– Yelm Municipal Code referenced
The intent of this chapter is to provide minimum standards for the number, size, design, quality construction, location, electrification and maintenance of all signs and sign structures, and to preserve and improve the appearance of the city. A sign is any communication device, structure, or fixture that is extended to aid an establishment in identification, and to advertise and/or promote a business, service, activity, or interest. (Ord. 995 § 12 (Exh. A), 2015).
The following are exempt from the regulation of this chapter.
A. The flag, emblem or insignia of a nation or other governmental unit or nonprofit organization, subject to the guidelines concerning its use set forth by the government or organization which it represents.
White Horse Tavern is clearly posting a banner with “The flag, emblem or insignia of a nation (our nation).”
18.62.040 Temporary signs.
A temporary (nonpermanent) sign is intended to be displayed for a limited period of time only. Temporary signs include, but are not limited to signs, banners, pennants, valances, and flags (except as exempted), searchlights (provided the beam of light does not flash against any building or does not sweep an arc of more than 45 degrees from vertical), balloons or other air- or gas-filled figures or advertising display, and sandwich board or sidewalk signs.
C. Special Events. Events for businesses and organizations include sales or other business activities, circuses, carnivals, festivals and other similar events. Temporary signs are allowed on premises only, for a period of 14 days at a time, limited to four times per year, and must be removed at the end of the 14-day period. Temporary signs shall not be larger than 20 square feet. Sandwich board signs shall not exceed two and one-half feet by four feet.
White Horse Tavern clearly has a banner for the special events surrounding Yelm Prairie Days and Independence Day July 4th. Perhaps the city can show SOME leniency in that their flag banner is larger than 20 sq feet and been hanging for longer than 2 weeks.
City of Yelm letter causing a Facebook firestorm
Photo credit: White Horse Tavern