In Portland, Oregon, the difference between Constitutional takings and just plain theft by government can be seen in bright neon.
The “Made In Oregon” sign on what used to be called the Bickel Building, on Burnside Street, is something of a landmark. It’s huge. It used to say “White Stag Sportswear.” It still features a white stag atop the sign. To much hullabaloo, every Christmas season the white stag’s nose gets lit, red.
Over the years, the sign’s ownership has changed. Now there are political rumblings to condemn the sign and make it public property, so to “control its message.” That’s city councilor Randy Leonard’s notion. Mayor Sam Adams (certainly not my favorite Sam Adams) and Commissioner Nick Fish have batted around the idea to buy the sign.
Jeff Alan, of the Cascade Policy Institute, makes the obvious point: If the city has a half million dollars to buy the sign, why not spend that money on real needs — like road repair or something — rather than on a neon sign?
How different were things back in 1925, when a portion of the Bickel Building, upon which the sign stands, was condemned to make room for the Burnside Bridge.
That displayed a commonsensical notion of public use.
Buying — or, worse, forcing the sale of — a sign to signal an official message? That’s Orwellian . . . if it even makes that much sense.
This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.