THE FREE SPEECH ZONE...IT AIN'T GONNA BE SO FREE!
The Polk County Commission approved a six page display policy for it's newly designated "Free Speech Zone" to be located in a grassy area between the Neil Combee Administration Building and the Polk County Courthouse in Bartow. And there's plenty of hoops for groups like that Sunday School class from Bartow's First Baptist Church if they want to place something there.
Applicants will be selected in an annual random lottery held on the first Wednesday in October, and those approved must:
--- Pay a $50 application fee.
--- Pay a $100 deposit if selected.
--- Purchase a $500,000 insurance policy to cover liability costs.
--- Submit details of the display, which must be approved by the County Attorney's office.
After the lottery, groups can apply for any available display date by applying 21 days in advance and being approved. The length of time such displays can remain will vary.
The requirments for displays include no light or sound, profanity or pornography, no commercial speech, and no permanant changes to the display once approved.
One of the five Republican County Commissioners, newly elected Bob English, voted against the policy, saying "If this is free speech, boy, it's a funny definition...It really does limit free speech with all the hoops and rings people have to jump through to get a forum."
In his few months on the BOCC since his election, English has served as the more moderate of it's members. At our meeting Monday evening, the Polk County Democratic Executive Committee voted to invite English to speak and discuss his ideas with the group.