When winning is actually losing; an issue with the local banner ordinance (opinion)
Over 74,000 votes were cast in this year’s Best of Tahoe contest. That’s a lot of votes. That’s a legitimate amount of people letting everyone know who they think is the best on the South Shore when it comes to specific things.
If you are a business who was lucky enough to win, it’s even better. My hat is off to you — congratulations. You should be able to stand on the side of the road and scream out at the top of your lungs that you are the winner. Actually, you can. But what you can’t do is put up a banner letting all the locals and visitors know that you are a winner.
Seems silly, right? Well, this is happening around town to some of our winners this year who have hung banners outside their establishments — and I don’t agree with how it’s being enforced.
Given the ordinance that is put in place against banners being hung in South Lake Tahoe, you either have to hang it in a designated part of town, which there is only one, or you tie it to a “special event” four times a year and hang it for each of those events no more than four days. You can also get a permit and have it fixated to your building, but I’ll get into that later.
Look, I get the idea of trying to keep the town from looking like the back of a van that has an affinity for collecting bumper stickers; but I think these businesses deserve some respect. It’s hard work to keep a business afloat nowadays and, if they can be recognized for being the best at what they do, we should rejoice in that. That’s a special honor for a local business. And while the local community may know about the award, it’s also important for visitors to know who have been deemed the best. Hanging a banner is a great way to do that – and from what I’ve been told, it’s been happening for years now.
I know what you’re saying — why would we give these banners an exemption just because of this? Well, why not? If one of these banners elicits a purchase, does that not help with sales tax? Does it help put a bigger spotlight on a business and open it up for discussion with visitors when they return home? Maybe. Either way, these are good things. They can lead to more good things, too.
While we’re talking about these being an exception, let’s also discuss seeming exemptions all over town for other banners. There is a 2011 award banner that has been up since I started my position here at the Tribune back in March — and it isn’t hung up any differently than those of the businesses told to take theirs down. Another banner I recently saw was tattered and hung up with push pins and thumbtacks — and it has been there since I can even remember. This is only a few of the ones that I have seen.
Why do these banners get overlooked? Is it selective enforcement? Is it being lazy? Either way it doesn’t seem fair.
In talking with the South Lake Tahoe Police Department, which enforces the banner ordinance, they noted that it has been a tough year when it comes to staffing levels. While many of us can relate to not having the staff needed to do the job correctly, we still have to do the job at hand. All of the businesses that were notified to take their banners down could have their signs read from Lake Tahoe Boulevard. This means they were directly seen from the street. Given this, it would seem like the businesses having a location on the main drag gives them a disadvantage on this issue because the time isn’t being taken to enforce this ordinance properly and fairly.
The city does have an option for businesses to take the banners and apply for a permit to put the banner up. However, there are some building restrictions (this is Tahoe, after all) on how the banner can be constructed and mounted to the exterior of the building. If a banner is professionally constructed and hung, I’m not sure what the big difference is there – other than it’s a way to get more money from businesses. I’m not sure if this is a big money maker for the city, but I would venture to guess it’s not much — and there are other places they could look for this amount of revenue.
I’m not out to bring down the hammer on businesses that have banners up. Nor do I want to bash the enforcement. What I want to do is bring attention to this issue. The city should either enforce the ordinance fairly or change it all together.
Maybe this is the next step. There are many ways you can go about the issue of having a banner ordinance while keeping the integrity and look of the town — and while they’re at it, show some love and appreciation for the businesses that win awards like this — because how many times have you heard people in local government say we should celebrate Lake Tahoe and what Lake Tahoe has to offer?
Publisher Rob Galloway can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 530-542-8046.