Bexley votes down picketing ordinance

Bexley city council voted down a controversial picketing ordinance in its Oct. 14 meeting. 

Council member Jed Morison had sponsored the ordinance in July. Raising issues of free speech and community well-being, the ordinance sparked considerable discussion on the council and in the community, and was tabled until City Attorney Lou Chodosh could review it. 

Chodosh reported to the council that there were problems with the ordinance.  He said the First Amendment guarantees freedom of speech and cited a Supreme Court decision that public streets are a forum for people to gather and express themselves. 

The Bexley ordinance would not stop people from using the streets to picket, but only from stopping and focusing on one individual residence. 

Chodosh noted that even though this was the case, the ordinance wouldn’t change anything, because people would still be marching and picketing. Bexley can’t write an ordinance against all picketing, he said, or we’d be in court for 50 years, and I think in the end we would lose. 

Chodosh said such an ordinance would merely encourage protest groups to challenge the law and file lawsuits, which would cost the town money and be detrimental to public safety.

He said there were already 12 or more ordinances that could be used to keep picketers under control, prohibiting things like menacing, trespassing and assault, among others.   

Council member Ben Kessler, who voted against the ordinance, said he was personally not inclined to argue with the Supreme Court, and referred to concerns about how the law would be enforced. 

It’s bad public policy to pass a law that you can’t enforce, he said. 

Council president Matt Lampke, the lone member to vote for the ordinance, said the law was a good one and could be enforced. 

He cited a case in California’s 9th District in which the court upheld a law requiring picketing to be at least 300 feet away from a dwelling. 

He also mentioned other cases where picketing was limited or only allowed with a permit. 

Other news
• Service Director Bill Harvey said a decision has not yet been made on what to do about purchasing salt for the winter. 
The purchase has been delayed amid concerns about the current high price of salt.  He said he guessed the eventual solution would be to use a mixture of sand, salt and brine. 
Sand is inexpensive, he said, and the city might use only about 10 percent salt in the mixture to keep the sand from freezing. 

He said it is a more dirty solution, but it wouldn’t cause problems in the sewers and the city could run the sweeper on the streets more.

• Brennan said although some communities in the area are doing their trick or treat night on Oct. 31, Bexley would still hold its on the 30th. 

He said there were too many conflicts on Friday.  He estimated that about two-thirds of local communities were having their celebration on the 30th, and said even if some kids from Columbus came to double up on their trick or treating he would be willing to give out a few extra bags of candy.

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