Tom Gieryic doesn’t seem a likely poster boy. He’s a mechanic by trade, and a small business owner in one of the poorest communities in the nation. However, when Code Enforcement cited him over an American flag, it reignited a firestorm that has surrounded Albany’s controversial sign ordinance for years now.
The current sign ordinance is the result of an alleged effort to tweak the old law to be more business friendly. This effort was sparked when Bo Henry’s Harvest Moon was cited for having two ground signs in front of its Dawson Road building. The sign predated Henry moving his restaurant to that location, but it didn’t matter.
City Commissioners launched a “sign ordinance task force” to come up with a plan to fix the law. After weeks of meeting, a few changes were crafted.
We now can see that there are still problems with the law.
Yes, Gieryic’s flag is on the right of way. However, that’s only a small percentage of the issue here. You see, there are regulations over how big a flag can be in relation to its flag pole. There are regulations dictating how big a flag pole can be. This might have some bearing on things if the flag was advertising a business, but it’s not. It’s our nation’s flag. How is this remotely right?
It’s simple. It’s not.
The sign ordinance is one of the most anti-business regulations in Albany. It has been for years and years. Wendel Grace was cited for having one of those inflatable “Gumby” looking wind dancers. Why did he have it? Oh, just to let people know that his new store, the Doughnut Factory, was open. Henry was cited for having a sign that had been there before two ground signs were illegal. Gieryic is cited for our nations flag being in a place he says it’s been for 30 years. Really?
Our community has some very real problems. Many of those problems can be solved by a vibrant economy. However, you don’t get a vibrant economy by creating an environment where businesses are being cited for simply trying to advertise their business. It’s even worse when patriotism is the reason for being cited.
I suspect that we’ll see another version of the sign ordinance task force. Maybe even this time, people like Bo Henry will actually have a vote, rather than just be sitting there to make things look legitimate. However, a better move would be to just scrap the current law and take a long, hard look at what is really needed in this town.
They’ve tried fixing it multiple times, and the result is still an absolute mess. If you asked Tom, Gieryic he can tell you that there comes a point with a car where it just doesn’t make sense to try to fix it, but instead you look into something new. That also applies to this ridiculous sign ordinance. It’s past time to just kill what we have, and start over. Only this time, let’s make something that doesn’t hurt business. How does that sound?