Joshua Sampson, Staff Writer
Freedom of speech is a large part of the United States of America, but when it comes to public signs, who really has the right? Kevin McGinty was challenged recently on a sign in his front yard that states, “Carter, Gore and Now Obama. Good Grief, Nobel Nitwits All.” After seeing this sign and a few others, Maria VandenBoom sent a letter to Boyne Area Chamber Members, expressing her opinion on the matter.
“While I am a proponent of free speech, I abhor the intrusive messages that I am forced to view every time I pass through Boyne City,” stated VandenBoom.
VandenBoom has lived in Horton Bay for over 40 years, but she stated that she supports Boyne City businesses, such as the grocery, hardware, restaurants and specialty stores. However, she feels that McGinty’s signs are a significant problem in Boyne and may result in the loss of business to the area.
“No matter what your political views are, it is offensive to refer to the president as ‘boy’ and use … hateful language,” she said. “This past weekend, I decided to do my shopping in Petoskey to avoid more propaganda and to take my business elsewhere.”
VandenBoom also stated that it is important for Boyne to draw in business, especially in a struggling economy. She continued by stating it is likely others share the same view on the sign issue as she does, and it is also likely that other offended people have taken their business elsewhere. McGinty does not share her opinion, and he believes that his First Amendment Right of Free Speech is nonnegotiable.
“The First Amendment allows me to voice my opinion on the situations and criteria that guide my life and the social outcomes me and my family are going to encounter,” he said.
While this is not the first time McGinty has dealt with a complaint, he said he has never had people voice their concern directly to him. “I am not afraid to express it (his opinion), and no one has come up to me and said they don’t like my signs,” he said. McGinty stated in a letter that he thinks he is being confused with the “Blame America First,” social progressives who masquerade as “Patriots.” He also stated that the putting someone down is derived from the belief in personal superiority, when it is, he feels, his right to examine and critically analyze the United States government. “What can I do as an individual to turn this (country) around?” he said. “I have contributed a lot to this country, and I’m not going to let it turn itself on its head.”
Scott McPherson, Boyne City Planning/Zoning Director said that the Zoning Board can only limit the time, place and manner on election signs due to the First Amendment. “We only regulate election signs for specific reasons,” said McPherson. “An election sign can be eight feet wide and no taller than four feet.” McPherson said when it comes to looking at any sign’s legitimacy, the board does not regulate free speech, and opinion signs fall under the First Amendment’s protection.
McGinty does not believe the signs are the real issue though; he believes the real issue is the state of the country. “The whole world has turned upside down, and people are worried of where they are going to do their shopping,” McGinty said. “Boyne’s not the issue, the issue is where the country is headed. Are the people aware of the status of the government?”
At the moment, McGinty has his sign in the backyard while holiday decorations have taken its place in the front yard, but even in light of new complaints he said his sign has not been put away for good.