Arlington County’s had quite a year for harassing local businesses, from Screwtop & Bakeshop in Clarendon to Westover Market Beer Garden. Well now one business owner is fighting back: Kim Houghton of Wag More Dogs is taking the county to federal court over its ludicrous war on her dog mural.
Today, you can add the Washington Post to those who think Arlington County has gone too far:
Arlington officials argue that the mural promotes the canine boarding and grooming facility run by Ms. Houghton, a former ad executive for The Washington Post. It’s only fair to other dog businesses, they say, that she conform to the rules. But the county undercut its own argument when it suggested Ms. Houghton add the wording, in 4-foot-high letters, “Welcome to Shirlington Park’s Community Canine Area,” which in effect would co-opt the mural into a sign for the county. Ms. Houghton balked at the estimated cost of $7,000; the mural had already cost her $4,000, and she had put another $150,000 into starting the business.
Instead, she filed suit in federal court with the help of the Institute for Justice, a civil liberties law firm. The suit argues Ms. Houghton’s First Amendment right to express herself through art is being abridged. And it notes that there would not have been a problem if the mural depicted flowers, dragons or ponies instead of dogs. The absurdity that reveals should cause Arlington residents to wonder about their government’s grasp of common sense.
“We have to enforce our sign ordinance fairly,” county spokesman Mary Curtius had told a Post reporter. Which I guess is is true — lately, Arlington County has treated all businesses with equal absurdity.