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Enforce sign law or change it

Our Opinion

For some, the wall paintings that cover the sides of buildings in Portland are eyesores, and for others they are lively and attractive symbols of commercial activity.

But one fact is indisputable: Many of these murals, regardless of their aesthetic value, are illegal under the city's sign code. That means the city has an obligation either to enforce its rules or rewrite them.

For the most part, we aren't particularly bothered by the wall paintings, which hawk everything from sporting events to airline tickets. In our eyes, they appear less intrusive than freeway billboards, which also are strictly regulated in Portland.

However, enforcement of the city's sign code cannot be dependent upon the sensibilities of any one group. The city had reasons for placing a moratorium on billboards and signs 14 years ago. The reason it has stopped enforcement now isn't because civic attitudes have changed, but because the city lacks money to employ a sign-enforcement staff.

As reported in last week's Tribune, the noncompliance issue now has come to the attention of Commissioner Randy Leonard - an enforcement hawk if there ever was one. We're not sold on Leonard's proposed solution, which includes a sign crackdown with fines stiff enough to act as a deterrent and also raise sufficient funds to rehire staff. But we agree with the commissioner that the issue must be reviewed and that either the signs should come into compliance with the law or the code should be revised to accommodate what has become common practice in Portland.

To do nothing is unfair to those who follow the rules, and also an admission that laws don't really matter in Portland.