published Friday, June 20th, 2014

And another thing ... doughnuts, nicknames and Kit Carson

Hole In One (Department)

Doughnut-gate has shined the light on a city department many believe has been run as an arrogant fiefdom — with little practical application — for many years.

The Commercial Signs and Zoning division of the Land Development Office within the Office of Economic and Community Development made the call recently to tell the owner of Koch's Bakery on Broad Street that the just-completed, $11,000 mural of flying doughnuts on one previously overgrown and graffitied side of its building would have to go. It was advertising her business, the owner was told, and therefore is treated as a sign in city code. The owner understood that the city's sign ordinance did not require murals to have a permit as long as they didn't have "written trade names, advertising or commercial messages" (which the doughnuts mural does not). But a confusing conflict in wording and understanding over this issue is only one of the division's problems.

Through the years, many people who own Chattanooga businesses have told stories about harrassment from this division of city government -- having to re-do an expensive sign because it was a fraction of an inch off, being forced to remove an unobtrusive, temporary sign board, and having to keep an unhelpful sign in place because it had been attached to the building for years under a previous business.

Yet, no permit is required for graffitists to express their creativity and mark up downtown buildings -- with no permission from owners -- and little action is apparently taken to prevent it.

A little kindness, a little common sense, a little understanding from this department of this division of city government is surely due these small businesses who sacrifice much for their little corner of the Scenic City.

Misplaced Offense

The hoopla surrounding the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office cancellation of six trademarks belonging to the Washington Redskins, because the team name is offensive to some American Indians, usually leaves out a fact of some significance. The team was originally named the Braves in 1933 when it was located in Boston, but it later changed that name to honor one specific American Indian, William Henry "Lone Star" Dietz, its coach at the time.

So when the Patent Office took the action it did earlier this week, it had the effect of dishonoring the very people it claimed were dishonored by the team in the first place.

Of course, the government office has been down this road before, having canceled the Redskins' registration in 1999, only to see a federal judge overturn the decision in 2003. At that time, the judge said there was no proof the name was disparaging to anyone at the time of registration. The team's trademark attorney believes the same thing will happen again this time.

In the meantime, though, sports teams all over the country are shuddering, hoping their name doesn't offend someone and become a political football. Any American Indian names -- Braves, Seminoles, Red Men, Fighting Sioux, Tribe, Runnin' Utes, etc. -- are threatened, of course, but where politics and one offended person are concerned, all teams must look over their shoulder. How offensive, after all, must Cowboys be to American Indians; Fightin' Irish, Warriors and Marauders to pacifists; Battlin' Bishops, Preachers and Missionaries to atheists; Generals to enlisted personnel, Commodores to seamen, Roadrunners to coyotes, Miners to environmentalists, Judges to criminals, Mad Hatters to the mentally ill, Boilermakers to gin drinkers, and Senators to a large majority of the American people?

Who offended you today?

The offense by one American Indian activist who felt uncomfortable in a Taos, N.M., downtown park named after explorer, trapper, soldier and American Indian agent Kit Carson apparently was enough to get the Taos Town Council to recently change the name to Red Willow Park.

Carson, who has been dead for 146 years but has numerous schools, roads, geographic features and cities (including the capital of Nevada) named after him, was ordered by the U.S. Army in 1864 to relocate around 8,000 Navajo men, women and children 300 miles from Arizona to Fort Sumner, N.M., in what has been called the "Long Walk." Unfortunately, some 200 Navajos died after the nearly two months of travel.

Never mind that the explorer twice married American Indians, refused an order to kill all the men of a particular tribe and tried to resign his Army commission over the issue. Further, he did not participate in the forced "Long Walk" and had secured promises -- that were kept -- that the Navajo would not be attacked along the way. He later accompanied some Ute chiefs to the White House to meet with the U.S. president for assistance to the tribe.

But when one person is offended today, we are quick to act, the truth of the matter be darned.

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