04/10/2007: "Roadside Memorial Ordinance"
The public response to the County Council’s adopting the roadside memorial limitation ordinance has been generally negative and has, in some cases, reflected considerable anger. This issue, of course, is very emotional for those who derive comfort from the public memorials along the roads that recognize the loss of a family member or friend and offer continuing recognition of lives tragically cut short. Others argue that these memorials serve the public by identifying spots where, in some cases, alcohol was a factor in the accident. We on the Council were aware of these deeply-held viewpoints and others that argued in favor of unregulated memorializing of accident victims.
I believe, however, that it is important for all of us to acknowledge that there are additional victims in these accidents. There are emergency responders, residents who live in the area, residents who may have been at the scene, and others who not only obtain no comfort from the memorials, but feel continually troubled by the presence of reminders of a terribly painful event. Representatives of this second group brought this issue to the Council for deliberation. I voted for the ordinance, not out of disregard for the first group, but – among other reasons - because alternatives that provide comfort exist. Memories of a loved one are sustained in the hearts and minds of those left behind and, more tangibly, in memorial parks, contributions to worthy causes, and other traditional ways.
The second group of residents, who see the memorials as something imposed upon them, have previously had no means for eliminating the symbolic reminders of a traumatic event; the roadside memorials seem, for all intents and purposes, eternal. The new ordinance will provide a 3-month period of mourning for the first group but will ultimately eliminate memorials at the sites where fatalities occurred.
There was no solution the Council could identify that would satisfy everyone affected by this dilemma. I believe the solution we chose, while leaving some residents dissatisfied, is the best we could manage after considering all the competing perspectives.
San Juan County Council, District Two