Housing board mulls sign ban
The handwritten sign on Enson "Quizzy" Maattala's front door read "Guns, beer, butter and tax cuts." The anti-gun, anti-alcohol message wasn't meant to offend, Maattala said. But after several other residents of the Moorhead Public Housing Author...
The handwritten sign on Enson "Quizzy" Maattala's front door read "Guns, beer, butter and tax cuts."
The anti-gun, anti-alcohol message wasn't meant to offend, Maattala said.
But after several other residents of the Moorhead Public Housing Authority's River View Heights building complained, the sign was torn down by a police officer in January.
At Wednesday's housing board meeting, Maattala said officials are limiting his freedom of speech, and the board began considering a ban on all front door signs in public housing buildings.
Current Housing Authority policy says residents are not allowed to hang signs without permission or act in a manner that disturbs the rights or comfort of their neighbors.
That policy has included taking down signs offensive to other residents, said River View Heights Housing Manager Sally Roe.
But the Housing Authority does not have the ability to decide what signs are offensive or not offensive. It can only decide whether to permit or prohibit all door signs, City Attorney Brian Neugebauer said.
"As terrible as it is, we have to decide what we want," said housing board chairman Mike Pehler. "Do we want the terrible of nobody is allowed to put anything up, or the terrible of everyone is allowed to put everything up?"
Roe said she hopes that doesn't happen, because many of her residents have hung decorations or greeting signs.
"Almost everyone's got something on the door, you know, saying 'Welcome,'" Roe said. "The signs make it feel pleasant, not like an institution."
Roe doesn't recall asking any other residents to take down an offensive sign.
"If I have, they just took it down and it wasn't a big deal," she said.
After Roe received several complaints about Maattala's sign from residents, she asked him to take it down, she said. They were worried that Maattala might have guns in his apartment, she said.
Maattala became upset when Roe wouldn't tell him who objected to the sign and left her office, she said.
Then Roe made copies of the housing authority's lease and resident policies and called police to have officers with her when she delivered them, she said.
A police officer tore down the sign after Maattala refused to open the door, she said.
Now Maattala wants to put a sign displaying two Bible verses on the front of his door. If the Housing Authority tries to stop him, they will be violating his freedom of speech and freedom of religion, he said.
"It's a total, red-blooded, American freedom," Maattala said.
The Housing Authority left its meeting without changing the policy, following Neugebauer's advice to wait to see if alterations are needed.
Roe, at least, hopes she won't have to hand down the sign ban to her residents.
"It will peeve them off like you wouldn't believe," she said.
Readers can reach Forum reporter Joy Anderson at (701) 241-5556