WALLA WALLA, Wash. -- The deadline to take the giant purple octopus mural down is Wednesday. Controversy has swirled around the story since the mural was painted on a Walla Walla toy store.
Store owner Bob Catsiff is out of legal options and sent an open letter to the media Tuesday. He insists it's an expression of free speech and doesn't violate city law.
Fines have piled up and the city may be poised to break out the rollers.
Even if the mural is ultimately painted over, the city has no plans to roll over on the fines owed.
Walla Walla intends to collect close to $90,000 for code violations.
In March of 2010, I approached the city with plans to paint a mural on the front of my toy store. I was told it would not be allowed. The Downtown Foundation then offered to design it for me with the idea that it would then be allowed. I declined this offer and asked what codes would regulate the mural I had proposed. This question remained unanswered for months though I reiterated it regularly. The city was asked specifically if this would be considered a sign; the answer was no. Consequently, I did not apply for a sign permit. At no time were size and height mentioned as being a problem, only that it would not be allowed and I should allow a design committee to dictate the style and content of my mural.
After the city issued a notice of violation of its sign code, I decided to defend the mural with a free speech argument. My belief was that an attack on the code itself would be more effective and was certainly more palatable than attacking the responsible individuals or pointing out the preponderance of sign code violators.
As one of my few remaining options to preserve the mural, I now present the argument that the city is selectively enforcing its sign code. This is actually a very simple argument: the city has never taken enforcement action against any sign code violator though numerous violations have existed for years.
On March 7, my lawyer mailed a letter to the City Attorney stating my position regarding the apparent selective enforcement being applied to the octopus mural. In the letter, we also request the city’s position on the facts we present and our legal analysis of this selective enforcement. As of today, we still await an answer. A copy of the letter is attached.
Though I struggle to weather the mental stress and financial burden this has caused, I shall continue fighting to preserve the mural due to overwhelming community support and my deep belief that I am right.
I sincerely thank all those who support me and I ask you to please keep your words positive. Remember we are all part of the same community. Please refrain from verbal attacks on entire industries, groups or individual businesses. Instead, calmly and repeatedly voice your support to those people who can make a difference. Those people are the City Council, the City Attorney and the City Manager.