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A story that just doesn't stick

In response to blogosphere outrage over the University of Oregon's ordering delivery driver Pete Baker to remove a "Support Our Troops" magnetic yellow ribbon from his state-owned work truck, University President Dave Frohnmayer claimed that his hands were tied:

Decisions about whether employees may or may not put stickers or magnets on state-owned vehicles have nothing to do with the messages. The fact is state vehicles may not have any personal messages affixed to them.

This distinction between a state vehicle and a personal vehicle is very important. Government vehicles in this state have never been allowed to exhibit items of personal expression. State employees are free to use their personal vehicles for statements of all types on university campuses and elsewhere.

Because the university is a state agency, I cannot make distinctions or allowances on this matter, regardless of the cause or the breadth of its support. Whether the message is "Support Our Troops," "Fund Cancer Research" or "Support Tsunami Relief," employees may not place personal stickers or magnets on state-owned vehicles.

See Oregon Department of Administrative Services, Fleet Administration Operating Policies Section 107103-5:
Now, maybe Frohnmayer thought no one would actually read Section 107103-5, but I did. It states the following:
All vehicle-identifying stickers must remain on the vehicle in accordance with ORS 283 which requires all State vehicles be marked with the owning Agency name followed by “State of Oregon". Removal of stickers will result in a $25.00 fee. No unauthorized stickers are allowed on DAS owned vehicles.
It's pretty clear, in its title and in its text, that this policy refers only to "stickers" -- not to magnets, suction-cup "Baby on Board" signs, Derek Jeter bobblehead dolls, plastic statues of Jesus on the dashboard, or any other personal accoutrements.

In fact, from 107103-5's overall wording, you could argue that the authorization requirement applies only to official "vehicle identifying" stickers, and not to personal stickers of any kind. Yet somehow from 107103-5's spare text, Frohnmayer extrapolates a total ban on any and all personal messages.

Where is he getting that from?

Frohnmayer claims that "[g]overnment vehicles in this state have never been allowed to exhibit items of personal expression." Really? On what authority? Not that granted by 107103-5 on its face, that's for sure. (He tries to gloss over the issue by sneaking the phrase "stickers or magnets" into his statement, but that's a phrase of his own invention.)

Baker's ribbon emblem was apparently a magnet, not a sticker, although the issue is clouded because both terms are often used interchangeably in the same article.

But regardless of which it was, it appears Baker was allowed to have it on his truck until another employee complained. So Frohnmayer's claim that Oregon state vehicles have "never been allowed to exhibit items of personal expression" is simply not true.

They're allowed until someone raises a fuss.

At UO, as Michelle Malkin reader James Saker notes, that someone is likely to be against the war. And, apparently, against supporting our troops.


Anonymous said...

This is what i love about blogs. When are these people going to learn that you better have your facts straight because there are an army of fact checkers armed with the internet.

once again great catch GB

how much you want to bet a Free Tibet magnet would not have brought a complant (not that im against a free tibet lol)


Posted by gbfan001

Anonymous said...

To play "Devil's Advocate", I think the intent of the prohibition is to keep state-owned vehicles free of anything that expresses a personal point-of-view, whether through stickers, or magnets, etc. The University of Oregon, however, didn't have to follow through on the prohibition, and they were naive in thinking that such an action wouldn't produce a public outcry.

That being said, if we stick to the specifics in the administrative services' code, then it is clear that it doesn't specifically prohibit magnets. My fear is that with regards to laws in general we are splitting hairs, and that's not a good thing. The response of lawmakers to a situation like this, is to add further detail (and therefore complicate) things, the result being that we can no longer make sense of laws/codes/regulations without a lawyer. The intent of the code seems clear: to go back and rewrite the section will render it even more difficult for the "Average Joe" to understand. 

Posted by Sharon

Anonymous said...

They could have easily said "no unauthorized personal items or decorations." They specified stickers. If you are that good at reading the minds of lawmakers, you could be a Supreme Court Justice as soon as a Democrat becomes President and there's an opening on the bench.

My two cents is, I think the policy is designed to keep employees from falsely labelling their cars with official markings. On its face, it does not seem to be concerned with personal expression at all. 

Posted by GaijinBiker

Anonymous said...

I think its a good analysis of the situation.

There isn't anything in that instruction that would make him suddenly up and start removing harmless items like this off vehicles, PARTICULARLY a yellow ribbon.

We need to stop concentrating on the legal jargon, and pay more attention to the common sense of it all. 

Posted by Scott D

Anonymous said...

Scott D,

Thanks for posting.

I was with you until your last sentence.

We DO need to focus on the actual text of the provision (which is in quite plain English, not "legal jargon") and not our subjective ideas of what "common sense" is.

Ironically, "common sense" varies quite a bit from person to person. 

Posted by GaijinBiker

Anonymous said...

Great post.

I'm glad to see that the "ball" is "still in play".

Keep up the good work. 

Posted by Paul



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