Coupeville port fields kiosk queries

Coupeville Peace and Reconciliation responded Wednesday to the Port of Coupeville’s decision not to place its flyers on a kiosk on port property near the Coupeville Wharf.

Peggy Burton, a member of the peace group, read the prepared statement at the port meeting.

“In early July, the first of our flyers of upcoming events appeared in the kiosk and we are at a loss to understand why none has been posted since,” she stated.

She went on to pose a series of questions to the port commissioners. She wanted to know what the purpose of the kiosk was and whether there is a set of guidelines that regulate what gets posted or rejected. She also wanted to know what is the mission of the port commissioners and how their function relates to the kiosk.

She didn’t get any immediate answers from commissioners Benye Weber and Bruce Bryson because they were waiting for an opinion from the port’s legal counsel about a separate letter the port received concerning the kiosk. Commissioner Ed Van Patten didn’t attend the meeting.

The port received a hand-written letter from Coupeville resident Ann Dannhauer questioning the port’s decision. She said the kiosk is a public forum and should honor announcements from all citizens and groups. She said there are limits of free speech, but those categories not protected by the First Amendment include obscenity, defamation, fighting words and speech that incites illegal action. She said the port should limit their powers of censorship to those cases.

Members of the peace group who attended the meeting said Dannhauer’s letter didn’t necessarily represent their views.

Jim Patton, executive director for the port, said, because someone raised questions concerning the First Amendment, the letter was forwarded to the port’s attorney for his opinion.

Because the commissioners are waiting on their attorney’s opinion, they would not comment on the peace group’s letter or their decision not to post the group’s flyers.

Port officials originally decided not to place the flyers because they deemed them too political and worried they might be construed as representing the port’s views. They acted on the advice of Patton.

One flyer advertised a film that documented civil rights violations to Arab-Americans since 9/11. Another flyer advertised a talk about Islam from the pastor of the Interfaith Church in Seattle.

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