Here's the director of parks and recreation in Prescott, Arizona (pink suit) telling college student/artistic person Kristin Anthony (brown-haired woman on the right) why she had to stop work on her senior project—a community park bench and mosaic created by park users under Anthony's supervision. It's because some of the symbols people have chosen to decorate the bench with are "un-traditional" and therefore unacceptable.
What kind of symbols we talking about here? Well, there's rainbows, flowers, hearts, and animal shapes—but also religious signs (the Star of David, crosses) and a peace sign. People in Prescott believe in different things! That's just how it is. Nevertheless, the city received complaints from at least two people—including one person who reportedly doesn't even live in the town—about the peace sign and the religious symbols, because peace is anti-Arizona and anti-God. So the parks department has asked Anthony to stop working on the bench.
"Government is not known for creativity," says P&R director Debbie Horton. Man, ain't that the truth. Also: "Traditional things don't generate controversy." What is traditional: Cee-ment blocks! Even Soviet-era Communist Party leaders knew this, which is how they avoided controversies.
Horton also says that "beauty's in the eye of the beholder," then asserts that government "doesn't allow itself that luxury." Which doesn't make any sense, just like her claim that freedom of speech doesn't exist "in the public domain" (what??) doesn't make any sense. It seems that beauty is the "luxury" she's talking about, but! America has some pretty nice, artistic government buildings, though maybe those are actually "ugly" buildings and everyone has poor taste/is wrong.
Not everyone in Prescott seems eager to live in some sort of cactus-dotted version of Ceaușescu-era Bucharest. Some people have demonstrated at the park bench work site, and there's a Facebook page where bench supporters explain their side of the story:
This bench was a senior project that was created by a college student as a space where the community could come together and share their voices. It was approved by the parks and recreation and monitored throughout its seven weeks of construction. Hundreds of people came together to build the bench, decorate tiles, and break other tiles to form a beautiful mosaic. After two complaints regarding religious symbols on the bench, we were asked to stop work by the city council. Three days later we were told to tear down the bench due to safety and structural reasons. Many phone calls later to Parks and City Council, a meeting was set up with city leaders, where it was admitted that the content of the bench was the issue and that freedom of speech and expression don't apply to public domain.
On his blog, former Prescott mayor Jack Wilson reiterates that city employees had been monitoring the bench's progress prior to the work stoppage. He blames the current controversy on the city's lack of an official public arts policy. "Here we go again as the Prescott City Council art police try to impose their concept of what is acceptable art for Prescott," he writes.
Again? Yes, again. See, in June 2010 Prescott city council member Steve Blair demanded that a public elementary school mural depicting black and Latino students in addition to white students be repainted to make all the brown kids white. A radio show host, Blair posed the following question to his listeners: "To depict the biggest picture on the building as a Black person, I would have to ask the question: Why?" It's a good question, if you're a racist. Luckily for Blair, many Prescott residents are racist idiots, and had wondered the same thing, and had even yelled racial slurs at the mural-makers to voice their support for monoculturalism. Unsurprisingly, Steve Blair does not like the mosaic peace symbol heart sign bench.