Octogate and the space between here and there

The controversy over the purple octopus mural—which I’m naming “Octogate”—continues to rage in Walla Walla, with each camp building up motley memberships, and with increased stakes from the City Council, which is assessing a daily $100 fine on Mr. Catsiff, owner of the Inland Octopus store.

Supporters of the store have set up a Facebook group, but it’s not clear, to me at least, if this means there is any real political pressure on the City Council to amend its decision, or if there are merely 2,300 people willing to click a button marked “like” on a social networking site.

Walla Walla is not unfamiliar with protest, it being the site of the state’s Death Row penitentiary, but it doesn’t know what do with with public unrest when it’s about Main Street. Literally, Main Street. Somehow this debate about a large mural in the heart of downtown has opened up many other wounds within the community:

  • The abandoned rubble of the Blue Mountain Mall, which never made it to the end of construction, and which covers many acres on the west side of town
  • The falling apart sewer and roadway system, which the City Council keeps saying it will resolve but years later, hasn’t
  • The process by which Walla Wallans elect people to the City Council itself, which in the last election cycle, had no opposing candidates, so it was either these folks or nobody (or me)
  • The tension between a largely conservative population that favors small government and the rights of a Democratic small businessman

This week the City Manager, Nabiel Shawa, met with Octopus supporters, otherwise known as Octopi. I jest. He did meet with them though, to lay out his position for the city. It seems that this matter isn’t going to be resolved in the next 48 hours, but if people become more organized and informed about how their government works, if folks communicate about their passion for living in this little city, I think that’s all for the better. Meanwhile, if you’d like to contact Mr. Shawa to tell him your opinion about Octogate, you can email him here.

From the folks behind the Facebook group, comes this message regarding the meeting with the city manager:

…What we learned from him is that they consider the Octopus mural a sign rather than a mural because it h…as an octopus in it and the name of the place is Inland Octopus. However, after questioning him further, it appears that they nevertheless don’t consider El Sombrero’s mural a sign, even though it is a mural belonging to a Mexican restaurant by the name of El Sombrero that depicts both a Mexican AND a sombrero prominently displayed in it. Anyway, because it is a being considered a sign by them it is therefore deemed to be too big (signs can be 165 square feet max and Bob’s is something like 650 or thereabouts). No matter how hard I tried to convince him that most everyone sees this differently than they do at City Hall (ie, that it is obviously a sign rather than a mural no matter how you look at it, but especially if El Sombrero’s is … as well as several other downtown businesses), he would not back down from his stance … even in the face of logic. I am expecting to see this thing turn into a long drawn out legal battle … and one that I don’t believe that the City is going to win. It was fairly obvious to us (although he denied it) that they were sticking it to Mr Catsiff because of the way he did what he did instead of going thru the proper channels, and are simply being descriminatory by not forcing other downtown businesses to adhere to the same strict interpretations of city code that Mr Catsiff is being forced to adhere to.

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2 Comments on “Octogate and the space between here and there”

  1. Amy
    October 20, 2010 at 5:18 pm #

    Hey, Everett,
    do you have any say about the Google ads that pop up on your blog? I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that the No to Patty Murray link is not one you’d choose.

    • evmaroon
      October 20, 2010 at 5:20 pm #

      Uh, that’s a safe limb upon which to sit. I didn’t even know I had ads on my blog. I’m certainly not getting any money for them…

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