Policy goes; bus ads stay

At 11:20 last night, Town Council voted to suspend Chapel Hill’s bus ad policy. In a memo slipped to council members during the evening, town manager Roger Stancil explained that the bus ad policy the town approved in June 2011 prohibited any transit advertising of a religious or political nature. Thus, once transit work crews clocked in this morning, they would begin stripping the controversial bus ads paid for by Church of Reconciliation from buses unless council voted to suspend the town’s existing policy.

The motion passed 8-1, with Penny Rich voting against suspending the policy.

Council had planned to discuss possible changes to the existing bus ad policy in about two weeks. Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt stated he believed pulling the bus ads now, without notice to the community, would be injurious to the process of crafting a policy that everyone in the community could live with.

While the policy is suspended, the town will accept no new bus ad contracts but would honor existing contracts. The transit manager informed Stancil in a memo today that the town had passed an amended version of the proposed bus ad policy last year, and the amendments prohibited accepting ads pertaining to politics or political causes and ads for or against any religious beliefs.

Presumably the memos will be posted on the town’s website later today. For now, the bus ads will stay in place.
– Nancy Oates

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1 Comment

  1. JWJ

     /  October 25, 2012

    Do not often agree with the partisan ACLU, but here is a quote from their NC person that gets the issue right:

    “The law says you cannot restrict speech in public forums because of its content, because of its viewpoint,” said Chris Brook, legal director of ACLU-North Carolina. “Any efforts to bar this would be unconstitutional.”

    The bus is a govt monopoly in this jurisdiction, therefore a govt forum, despite the policy stating that is is not the intent CH Transit.

    Chapel Hill Transit is a govt entity, a govt forum, and is public speech. The only thing that makes sense is content neutral rules or simply have no advertising at all.

    Chapel Hill Watch blog is a private entity and can decide on whatever advertising you all want (or don’t want).