If you weren't paying attention at the end of the Chapel Hill Town Council meeting tonight, you might have missed some pretty shocking information. The controversial bus ad policy, the one that allowed the now-famous "end military aid to Israel" ads, was in fact not the policy adopted by Council just last year!
Here is a memo from Transit Director Steve Spade to Roger Stancil detailing the error:
When Transit needed a copy of the policy, I went to the June 13th meeting and used the policy that was included in the packet of materials rather than the policy provided in the supplemental materials that was approved by Council. As a result we have been using the draft policy rather than the one approved by the Council. In reviewing our communication since June 2011, we have consistently applied the draft policy rather than the one approved by the Council.
There were several edits in the policy approved by the Council, most significantly were the addition of two items in section 2.01 that excluded religious and political and social issue advertising.
When the Church of Reconciliation made a request to purchase advertising in February 2012 we applied the draft advertising policy rather than the Council approved policy. If we were to apply the Council approved policy to the Church of Reconciliation ad it would not meet our standards for advertising based on section 2.01‐e that excludes “advertising in which the primary message is one promoting or opposing a particular view on political or social issues, other than advertising authorized under 3.02 or 3.03”. These sections refer to advertising promoting or opposing named candidates and advertising by non‐profits which must conform to the language of 2.01.
Here's a link to the entire memo: http://www.townofchapelhill.org/Modules/ShowDocument.aspx?documentid=16105
Steve and Roger both recommended pulling the Church of Reconcilation ads and refunding the money; however in a memo from Mayor Kleinschimdt, he suggests suspending the current policy and honoring all contracts. He also suggests not accepting any new ads until the policy can be reviewed at the Nov. 5th meeting. You can see that memo here: http://www.townofchapelhill.org/Modules/ShowDocument.aspx?documentid=16108
A motion doing what the Mayor outlined in his memo to Council is what was passed at the end of the meeting. Given the controversy already surrounding the ads, this is indeed an unexpected twist and it should be interesting to see what happens at the November 5th meeting. Hopefully the Council will take this opportunity to correct a bad policy choice from last year, one perhaps made without the proper level of scrutiny.