The Colville City Council chambers turned into an ideological battleground last Tuesday as community memÂŹbers volleyed back and forth during a public comment peÂŹriod.
The issue at hand was whether or not a trio of local residents should be allowed to turn the âCâ into a peace sign on Colville Mountain for Earth Day. The author of the proÂŹposal, Peter Quinn, withdrew his proposal, saying he âdidnât mean to offend anyone,â and that his desire to construct the temporary peace sign was not politically motivated.
The proposal, written and presented to council on March 27 by Quinn, requested that the city allow the men to use three rolls of Tyvek building paper to create the peace sign on April 21 and leave it up all day on Earth Day, April 22. Quinn said he would return on Monday, April 23 to clear the Tyvek away. He said he would also make repairs to the âCâ by installing more white rock and hand raking around the area.
Opponents of the proposal maintained throughout the public comment portion of the meeting that the peace signâs history is a controversial one that symbolized communism, Marxism, and even the anti-Christ.
County chimes in
Colville City Attorney CharÂŹlie Schuerman advised mayor Deborah Rarrick and council to reject the proposal on the grounds that the city could open itself up to potential litiÂŹgation from civil rights groups concerning the erection of a political symbol on city propÂŹerty. He also noted that the city does not have a policy in place to address potential inÂŹjuries sustained by individuÂŹals volunteering for the city.
The Stevens County ComÂŹmissioners, in a rare instance, also chimed in via CommisÂŹsioner Malcolm Friedman, who presented a letter to council.
âWe rarely have reason to be involved in city matters, but our office received numerous calls and emails regarding this issue, and we felt it was necessary to address it,â said Friedman. âWe would ask that the mayor and the council refuse this request in the inÂŹterest of not making political statements on public property a precedent in our commuÂŹnity.â
John Smith said he was opÂŹposed to using city funds to assist with the placement of any political or religious symÂŹbol on city property. He cited when vandals burned down the cross that stood on Colville Mountain several decÂŹades ago. The American Civil Liberties Union threatened a lawsuit if the cross, a religious icon, was resurrected on city ground. A local landowner opted to have the cross rebuilt on private property, with doÂŹnations from individuals and local charitable organizations.
Though no city funds were requested for the âpeace sign projectâ in Quinnâs proposal, Quinn later said after the meeting that he âhad no deÂŹsire to spend my own money or energy on something that people are going to take the wrong way.
âI really didnât mean to hurt anybodyâs feelÂŹings or tell them that their beÂŹliefs donât matter. I honestly had no idea this would make people so upset and angry.â
Council member Nancy Foll attempted to compromise and suggested that the word âpeaceâ be put in place of a peace sign, since âthe word has different connotations for everyone.â
Since Quinn withdrew his proposal, the issue was dropped and council took no official action.