Truth to Power

Man outlasts city hall

It took 10 years, but Ogden man beats City Hall

It could be seen as a battle over a sign. But perhaps more accurately, it’s the story of one man’s decade-long war with City Hall.

And, it’s been a beauty.

Last week, Ogden’s Landmarks Commission approved Bruce Edwards’ proposal to restore a sign on his historic C.C. Keller Building on 25th Street – a full 10 years after his original request.

“I outlasted ‘em,” Edwards chortled Thursday. “And the bottom line is, I was right.”

The original wording, dating back to about 1910 and painted on the north side of the two-story brick structure, is still barely visible: “Every hour upon the hour for about an hour Drink Becker’s Beer – Ogden’s Famous Beer.”

But in 1998, the Landmarks Commission – whose membership has now changed – gave the sign restoration a big thumbs down.

“One of the members said, ‘We can’t have beer on that sign; we want 25th Street to be family oriented,” Edwards recalled.

Snubbed by the city, Edwards in 2000 put up a large sign in the window of his then-vacant building, saying, “Why would anybody do business in Ogden? It’s the dope capital of Utah.”

“Dope” didn’t refer to illicit drugs, Edwards explained. It was his description of the folks at City Hall.

That council responded with an ordinance forbidding such signs. Edwards called the American Civil Liberties Union and the feud moved to court where, in 2005, 2nd District Judge Parley Baldwin ruled in favor of Edwards, saying Ogden had usurped his First Amendment rights: “The sweeping ban understandably would dismay the average American … who would be surprised to learn he could not display flags, religious symbols, political placards, or even bumper stickers in the windows of his vacant building.”

But after the court ruling, the Landmark Commission again denied Edwards’ restoration request.

It was back to court again. This time Edwards lost on a technicality: He had waited too long from the commission’s 2000 denial.

So, in 2008, he applied again.

A new Landmarks Commission said OK.

Penny Allred, a 25th Street proprietor at Two Bit Street Cafe, agrees that City Hall didn’t treat Edwards fairly.

“Had they done that, a lot of this nitpicking back and forth could have been avoided,” she said.

Says Allred: “I would like to hope the city would get a little smarter.” </em>


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