Taos Files Criminal Complaint Against Sign Man
The Town of Taos has filed a criminal complaint for violations of the Town of Taos Sign Code against Jeff Northrup, aka “The Sign Man,” aka “The Gadfly,” aka “The Town Crier” –in district court. Below, Friction posts a section of the code, frequently referred to by the complaint, “15.08.260: Specifically Prohibited Types of Signs.” Section “G” is the main paragraph being used to beat down the sign man. The complaint claims the sign man’s presence on the east side of the highway in the area of the County Complex, across the street from the Centinel Bank’s main branch and just north of Casa Los Cordovas, the Mayor’s fabulous restaurant constitutes a safety hazard.
The complaint says, “The signs were painted with a highly visible color which distracted the attention of drivers because drivers tried to read messages on the signs as they drove by.” The complaint also claims “Mr. Northrup is able to hold one sign, but here, the signs are unattended and unsupported and there is nobody to prevent the signs from blowing into traffic or striking those families, walking nearby (my bold).” Further, the complaint says Northrup occupies an area “where the lanes taper from a four lane road to a two lane road.” The complaint says, “The sign content was not considered in the issuance of the citation” (my bold).
If you believe the latter claim about content, you’ll believe that Mayor Cordova and Councilor Silva haven’t violated “conflict of interest” rules, while voting to move the E911 operation to the Command Center. And you’ll believe that the Kit Carson Electric Coop Trustees and their family members aren’t benefitting from tree trimming, wood cutting, warehouse and property rents for the Broadband project, etc.
The Mayor, his cronies and puppet masters, are trying to kill the messenger because they can’t stop the message. Since the town couldn’t get a conviction of the sign man in their own muni court, they filed the case in district court. The conflict with the Mayor is rarely if ever covered by mainstream news sources because Jeff is an unpleasant and active town crier: He gives the news away instead of commodifying and compromising free speech by selling advertising. Taos’s own 1 % is at war with a single representative of the 99%.
Believe me, your honors, la pleve increasingly supports El Sign Man–I kid you not.
The Taos News vendors create community wide safety hazards each Thursday. Radio stations frequently create community divisiveness by promoting rumors or playing music, which distracts drivers, creating safety hazards. Still, the rights of radio shock jocks, The Taos News Vendors, and activist’s like Jeff’ should all be protected. Free speech is a premium in today’s repressive society. Jeff is the canary who sings forbidden lyrics about community corruption.
While the Town of Taos prosecutes the “Sign Man” for violating the code, the powers that be passively permit all kinds of tacky sandwich boards to dot the landscape for merchants, whose signs with tiny lettering advertising food and drink specials create safety hazards–as epicureans try and read the fine print for daily specials from their moving vehicles. Merchants, who are friends of the town, do anything they want.
If safety is your theme, then restrict the cops, who drive and use cell phones–ask them to slow down and avoid crashing into restaurants. If beauty is your policy, you’ve lost the battle against the tacky display of town, state, federal, and commercial signage. Local merchants add to the clutter.
Nostalgia: In response to Lady Bird Johnson’s program—Beautify America–during the late sixties and early seventies, a number of local activists, artists, bartenders, and even a Moly Mine Engineer, took it upon themselves to clean up Taos. They rode out in pick-ups and beat-up cars under the flag of “The Monkey Wrenchers.” There were fewer signs then, no tacky sandwich boards and garish Christmas banners, street signs or ugly historic markers—bearing the mark of the “Bad Taste School.” In a single night, a group of slightly inebriated but energetic fellows could make a huge difference in terms of improving what we call today’s “viewscape.”
The crusade against Jeff in court constitutes a poor substitute for settling political differences. Jeff is excessive in his demonstrations but so is the amount of “corruption” among public bodies. When a town councilor calls for an investigation of himself, due to “conflict of interest,” while confessing same, and a 32-year employee calls the Coop’s policies of using member money for private wood gathering, a “no brainer,” and the former police chief calls the department he just left “toxic,” you’ve got to remain skeptical about the interpretation of the code in Jeff’s case.
(P.S. The schools are not immune. TMS auditors can’t produce an audit—due way last year. And we hear a parent has gotten a restraining order from the court to protect a child against an overzealous school board member. But everyone’s tired of the “school for scandal” at CRAB Hall, where discrimination is rampant and education for children limited.)
Sign Code Section
15.08.260: SPECIFICALLY PROHIBITED TYPES OF SIGNS:
A. Signage that flashes, blinks, rotates, or varies its degree of internal illumination is specifically prohibited;
B. Signage with mechanically moving parts is specifically prohibited;
C. Signage utilizing or incorporating audio devices is specifically prohibited;
D. Billboards are specifically prohibited;
E. Commercial off site signage is specifically prohibited except as permitted elsewhere in this code;
F. Signage which obstructs the view of an operator of any motor vehicle upon any right of way, as determined by the “clear sight triangle” as defined within the town of Taos land use development title, or as may hereafter be defined therein, or as defined by the town of Taos “Access Management Manual” or its successor documents, or as may hereafter be defined therein, is specifically prohibited;
G. Signage erected or placed on the ground within, or suspended or projecting above, a right of way is specifically prohibited. This prohibition is for the purposes of traffic and pedestrian safety and avoidance of visual clutter. Directional, safety and construction related signs or other signs placed within or above a right of way by or with the permission of a governmental entity with jurisdiction is excepted from this prohibition, provided there is a valid and substantial public health, safety, welfare or aesthetic reason for such signage;
H. Signage bearing a similarity in style or design with commonly seen traffic signs or signals, and making use of such words as “stop”, “look”, “danger”, or similar phrase or symbol, which tend to mislead, confuse, or impede the orderly flow of either pedestrian or vehicular traffic, is specifically prohibited;
I. Signage illuminated by floodlights or spotlights not complying with the dark skies ordinance of the town of Taos is specifically prohibited;
J. Signage that restricts the free ingress or egress of any sidewalk, window, door, or fire exit, is specifically prohibited;
K. Signage projecting above a roofline, eave, or parapet is specifically prohibited;
L. Signage spanning any public walkway or public access area whose lower edge is less than seven feet (7′) above the average grade below, is specifically prohibited;
M. Signage that is hazardous, or in dilapidated and dangerous physical condition, or from which nails, tacks, screws, wires, or sharp objects of any nature may protrude is specifically prohibited;
N. Commercial signage constructed of cardboard, paper, cloth, or other nondurable material, is specifically prohibited;
O. Signage attached to a tree, fence, utility pole, transit facility enclosure, or street seating, within any public right of way, is specifically prohibited;
P. Inflatable signs are prohibited within the town of Taos;
Q. Commercial monopole signs are prohibited within the town of Taos;
R. The use of neon or LED or similar device to graphically outline any building, exterior walls, fence or other structure is prohibited;
S. Commercial signage placed on or affixed to a sidewalk or stairs unless specifically permitted by this sign code;
T. Signs shall not be affixed to public property except for banners and other signs placed with permission of the town or other governmental entity that owns the property at locations where rental of space for such banners or signs is permitted, and except for signs affixed by the governmental entity that owns the public property. (Ord. 10-17, 2010)