Jackie Pfendler is trying to prove the person wrong who said “You can’t fight city hall.” The City of Fayetteville has stomped all over her Fourth Amendment Rights, and is now going to work on her First Amendment Rights.
What’s the problem here? Well, Jackie owns and operates JP Electric, an electrical service contracting firm in Fayetteville. In 2009, she bought a building in a tough, troubled part of town, put $1 million into renovating it, and moved her company’s headquarters into it. In January 2012, the city decided they wanted to put a “transit center” and some spec commercial buildings on her property. Never mind the fact that Ms. Pfendler’s successful tax-paying business — employing dozens of area residents — is already on the property.
Well, the city has moved to condemn her property and simply TAKE IT FROM HER. City officials decided to have a “celebration” of this accomplishment adjacent to Ms. Pfendler’s offices. Here’s how it went:
The city of Fayetteville has told a businesswoman she needs to remove two signs that voice her opposition to condemnation.
A city code inspector wrote the letter Tuesday, accusing Jackie Pfendler of J.P. Electric at 135 Robeson St. of violating a sign ordinance.
The city has filed a lawsuit seeking to condemn her property and raze it for a planned $10 million transit center at the corner of Franklin and Winslow streets.
Last week, when city officials gathered at the site to celebrate a $8 million federal grant toward the project, Pfendler staged a quiet protest by having her employees hoist two white banners behind the building in view of the audience.
The larger one said: “If Obama helped us build our business, why is he letting the city of Fayetteville take our business?”
The smaller one said: “Say no to eminent domain,” and has a red circle with a line drawn through it.
After the ceremony, the signs were displayed more prominently on the front of her business facing Robeson Street.
The letter doesn’t specify how the two signs violate the ordinance and fails to indicate how much time she has to comply without facing a civil fine of up to $500.
Her lawyer, Neil Yarborough, said today his client is not violating the city’s sign ordinance. He said his client has a constitutionally protected right to free speech to display the signs on her building.
Yarborough cited a December 2010 ruling by a U.S. District Court for the Eastern District that found the town of Cary’s sign ordinance violated a resident’s right to voice his displeasure against the town by painting in fluorescent orange a sign on the front of his home that said: “Screwed by the town of Cary!” to protest a road-widening project near his home.
According to the town’s website about the case, town officials didn’t object to the content but the size of the painted sign in a residential setting.
But the federal judge ruled the town’s “sign ordinance is a content based restriction on speech that is invalid under the First Amendment” and barred the town from taking action against the sign.
In May 2011, the town of Cary filed an appeal with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit.
This morning, The Fayetteville Observer submitted requests asking for city officials to comment for this story.
Unbelievable. Obama and the Congress are working hard to figuratively destroy small business. The City of Fayetteville is literally trying to do so. What is the logic behind tearing down a successful privately owned business in order to replace it with yet another government owned and operated facility?
The Constitution is supposed to protect private citizens from having the government snatch your property on a whim. The Constitution is supposed to protect a private individual’s rights to protest the government’s actions.
The city’s tactics are what you’d expect from goons in a fascist Third World dictatorship. It’s hard to believe stuff like this can happen in America — especially in the city that is home to the 82nd Airborne (aka ‘The All-American Division”).
Wake up, people of Fayetteville. Today it’s Ms. Pfendler. Tomorrow it could be YOU. It could be YOUR WORKPLACE. How much longer are we going to stand idly by and allow government goons to trample all over the rights of the people they are supposed to be serving?