In a 5-2 vote, the Chapel Hill Town Council tonight reaffirmed Chapel Hill Transit (CHT)’s bus advertising policy with minor adjustments. The policy, which was technically a draft that had been erroneously enforced by staff, makes town buses a “limited public form,” and prohibits advertising that is “disparaging, disreputable or disrespectful.” The main debate of the evening centered around subjective terms like “disparaging” and “disrespectful” would be interpreted by staff. Council Members Eastrom and Czajkowski were the two dissenting votes. Council Member Pease was absent.
The Council also approved resolutions limiting the number of ads with the same message from the same source that can appear on a single bus and allowing staff to place disclaimers with bus ads stating that they do not represent the views of the town government.
The Transit Partners, made up of representatives from the Carrboro Board of Alderfolks, UNC, and the Chapel Hill Town Council, met this morning to talk about options for allowing ads on the Chapel Hill Transit buses. After some discussion about the 5 options
in front of them (from not allowing any ads to declaring the bus advertising space a public forum, greatly limiting acceptable ad restrictions), all members agreed, though a vote was not taken, to put forth Option 5, which would allow political and religious ads on Chapel Hill Transit buses with the, somewhat worrisome, caveat that the ads cannot be "offensive".
The Chapel Hill Town Council will discuss this recommendation when they again take up the bus ads issue on December 3.
The Carrboro Board of Aldermen tonight voted unananimously to support freedom of speech on Chapel Hill Transit buses.
If you weren't paying attention at the end of the Chapel Hill Town Council meeting tonight, you might have missed some pretty shocking information. The controversial bus ad policy, the one that allowed the now-famous "end military aid to Israel" ads, was in fact not the policy adopted by Council just last year!
Here is a memo from Transit Director Steve Spade to Roger Stancil detailing the error:
When Transit needed a copy of the policy, I went to the June 13th meeting and used the policy that was included in the packet of materials rather than the policy provided in the supplemental materials that was approved by Council. As a result we have been using the draft policy rather than the one approved by the Council. In reviewing our communication since June 2011, we have consistently applied the draft policy rather than the one approved by the Council.
There were several edits in the policy approved by the Council, most significantly were the addition of two items in section 2.01 that excluded religious and political and social issue advertising.
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