There's a funny story about a child entering first grade who finds out that, unlike kindergarten, there are no midday naps. "Whose stupid idea was that?" the incredulous lad asks.
A few folks around Columbia County likely started asking the same question when they heard that county commissioners on Tuesday are planning to change the rules to allow political signs to stay up virtually forever.
Commission Chairman Ron Cross is a little more diplomatic than that first-grader in asking, "Who thought this up?" during a recent commission meeting.
Well, as with most things that make zero sense to the folks out here in the "real world," blame it on the lawyers.
This whole thing started a couple of years ago when the patriotic owners of Cushman's Paint and Body in Evans ran afoul of the county's sign ordinance by flying an oversized Old Glory.
Public outcry made the county back off, and county officials started work on revising the rules. Other things got in the way, and eventually the whole thing got put on the back burner, and then taken off the stove altogether.
Finally, a few of weeks ago, County Attorney Doug Batchelor found the cold ordinance and started cooking up revisions to accommodate larger flags. But in looking at other parts of the sign ordinance, he apparently decided that it is a violation of the U.S. Constitution to require political candidates to take their street signs down after a race is over.
So, commissioners on Tuesday will change the county rules to allow flags of any size, but they'll also allow politicians all the time they want to clutter up the county's landscape.
Hang on a minute, though: We seem to remember just three years ago that Batchelor was defending those restrictions: Then-state Sen. Joey Brush, with help from Phil Kent, then the executive director of the Southeastern Legal Foundation, was threatening to sue the county to change the sign ordinance.
They never followed through on the threat. Kent left the SLF a year later, and Brush lost his re-election bid last year. The would-be challengers are gone, and by default, the county won. Yet we're now declaring defeat?
If Batchelor believes now, as he apparently didn't in 2002, that Columbia County's ordinance is unconstitutional, then it ought to be changed. But he should at least explain to commissioners his turnabout on a rule he defended three years ago.
And then commissioners should be prepared to explain to the county's citizens why junking up the county's roadsides with the never-ending clutter of political signs isn't a stupid idea.
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