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Sign praising Falun Gong coming down

2008-09-27 Author:By: Barry Noreen

Sue Bao, who emigrated from Shanghai in 1997, is a Falun Gong believer. She erected a large, billboardlike sign, which says "Falundafa is great" and lists a Web site with more information.

City code allows "ideological" signs no larger than 6 square feet in a residential zone. Bao's sign at her home appears to be nearly 20 feet long and perhaps 4 feet wide.

City officials received complaints and on Sept. 11, a letter arrived at Bao's house at 22 N. Prospect St. ordering her to remove the sign and threatening fines and legal action if she refuses.

Pam Brady, the city land use inspector who sent the letter, said: "I explained it constitutes a billboard in a residential area."

Brady said some complaints were made anonymously by people who drove by and "there were two complaints from the neighborhood."

Brady said one complainant asked: "What are they doing in there?"

You have to wonder if that person would have complained if the sign said "Jesus Saves."

But this is not a case of religious discrimination.

Brady is going by the book, which clearly allows signs only up to a certain size.

Bao speaks broken English, and Brady acknowledged that's made things difficult.

Bao's son-in-law, Andrew Li,, fixes computers and has applied for an in-home business license at the residence. Such licenses routinely are granted for a $60 fee, but Li's application has been held up because of the sign code case. Brady said that's standard procedure in a zoning case.

Brady comes across more as an overworked employee in a thankless job than as an unfeeling bureaucratic functionary. She and her colleagues are inundated with cases, yet it's too bad the enforcement letter couldn't have had a little more Dr. Phil in it, and a little less ominous language about "enforcement action and abatement procedures."

Louise Conner, president of the Middle Shooks Run Neighborhood Association, said an association member recently mentioned Bao's sign.

"It's just inappropriate to have a sign that size," she said. "It's just not good for the neighborhood."

The sign will come down. Andrew Li will get his business license. The bad news for Sue Bao is she must have a smaller sign; the good news is she doesn't have to worry about being sent to a Chinese labor camp for having it.

Original text from: http://www.gazette.com/articles/sign_40883___article.html/bao_brady.html

(The Gazette, September 23, 2008)