Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIV, Issue 10
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Inland Octopus mural discussion continues

It’s been more than a year since the large colorful Octopus mural was painted in front of the Inland Octopus toy store at 7 E. Main St. As of this week, the fines against the mural for violating city codes that have been accruing at a rate of $100 a day since October 14, 2010, will exceed $35,000.

Credit: David Jacobson

After losing his case in Walla Walla superior court in April of this year, the store’s owner, Bob Catsiff, is waiting to take the mural case to the state Supreme Court, bypassing the appeals court because of the case’s constitutional nature. It will probably be reviewed in early 2012.

The mural has been condemned because of its violation of the city’s strict sign code, which lists specific size and height restrictions on signs. The mural covers 619 square feet, more than four times the size deemed acceptable in the code. The issue in court is whether or not the mural can be considered a sign.

The sign code for the city defines a sign as any surface that identifies, advertises or promotes an activity, product, service, place, business,  political or social point of view.

Catsiff feels that this definition is unconstitutionally vague and over-broad and that the enforcing of fines on the mural’s violation of the sign code is a restraint on his freedom of speech.

Tim Donaldson, the city attorney, is quoted in the Union Bulletin as saying, “The city is seeking only to enforce sign size and height requirements that have been in place for 20 years.”

The case of the Inland Octopus mural has received an incredible amount of support from the community.

“It’s unfathomable how much support I have. It’s really neat,” said Catsiff.

In regards to the outcome of the case, Catsiff is more than hopeful.

“I’m confident that we’re in the right,” he said.

However, Catsiff said that he is also prepared to handle the worst-case scenario.

“I’m confident and hopeful that we’re going to win, but I have to prepare myself for unlikely event that we might lose,” he said.

Whitman senior Alethea Buchal agrees with Catsiff.

“It is in the first amendment to express ourselves. Art is the highest form of expression. It shouldn’t be prohibited unless it’s violent or hurtful, but an octopus isn’t violent or hurtful,” she said.

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