Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIV, Issue 10
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Octopus supporters up in arms at City Council meeting

On the crisp afternoon of Monday, Oct. 11, the Walla Walla City Hall was at full capacity. Tie-dyed octopus shirts dotted the room. It was clear this was no ordinary city council meeting. The reason for this increased turnout concerned the last item on the agenda for the evening: the Inland Octopus facade.

This large, colorful mural, located above the Inland Octopus toy store at 7 E. Main St., has been the cause for much controversy in Walla Walla since it was painted last month. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the mural’s violations of the city code.

City Attorney Tim Donaldson ’84 outlined in a letter the issues against the mural. The issues pre-mural are that Bob Catsiff, the store owner, did not obtain a permit to close the sidewalk during the painting process, nor did he obtain authorization to paint a wall sign.

The issue post-mural is the question of whether or not it falls under the category of a wall sign. A wall sign is defined as, to quote Donaldson’s letter, “Something painted directly on a wall which ‘identifies, advertises and/or promotes [a business].” In one respect, the mural can be interpreted as a sign because it has been used in print advertisements. If it is strictly defined as a sign, however, the mural is four times too big and about five feet too high.

“The vagueness of the definition of a sign in the code makes it unenforceable,” said Catsiff.

When the microphone was open to public comment, there was a big rush towards the front. Among the 27 community members that commented at the meeting, all but one was pro-mural.

Many community members spoke of the sense of magic and whimsy the mural brought to the town. Others, such as Robert Radke, spoke to the voice of the children, saying that it often goes unheard in favor of the “wine-drinking 50 year-olds.”

“I have more fun in Inland Octopus than any winery,” Radke said.

Many comments pointed to a need for change, and a belief that rules were made to be broken. Almost every pro-mural argument was followed by cheers and applause by the audience.

One community member felt that Catsiff needed to honor a sense of fair play–that his actions flouted city codes by putting up the mural without approval of the design. The community member also felt that the act was a movement against the unified vision that Walla Walla has worked hard to achieve on historic Main Street.

The artist, Aaron Randal, also spoke out about his motivations to do the mural.

“I did not ask for a single cent,” he said. “I wanted it to be a gift to the children and to downtown.”

After an hour and a half of public opinion, city council members discussed how they felt about the situation. Many of them stated that they enjoyed the mural, but ultimately felt that laws are there for a reason.

City council member Jim Barrow broached other concerns currently happening in the community, including cutbacks and burglaries.

“It’s a shame that these issues don’t arouse more public interest and concern,” he said.

City council member Domanique Elia asserted that one should not do something, then expect the rules to change.

Because the Walla Walla City Council did not act, this issue turned over to city administrative staff to decide. If the mural is found to be a sign and in violation of the city code, Catsiff will be issued a Notice of Civil Violation. In this notification, a date will be issued of when the sign must be taken down. Catsiff will have a chance to appeal. If the sign is found to be a violation of the city code, Catsiff can be charged a fine of 100 dollars per day should he neglect the notice and keep the sign untouched.

Donaldson told KEPR-TV that that official notice will likely be sent sometime this week.

Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Comments (0)

All Whitman Wire Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *