Political Speech at Harvest Market Discussed by MSPA

By Isiah REYES

The Montrose Shopping Park Association invited Chief Assistant City Attorney of the City of Glendale Gillian van Muyden to answer questions from the board at its monthly meeting on April 2 concerning political speeches at the Harvest Market.

The MSPA wanted to clarify the rules and regulations for political discourse, for example someone who is campaigning for/against ballot measures or passing out literature for/against a certain candidate and whether or not those actions should be permitted.

The current marketplace rules and regulations state that campaigning for or against electoral candidates or ballot measures and any other unauthorized solicitation is prohibited, with the exception of the Democratic and Republican clubs that are allowed to have a booth before the general election to register voters.

“It’s not always a straight forward analysis when you look at First Amendment free speech rights,” said van Muyden. “Streets and sidewalks are what are considered to be traditional public forums where free speech activity can take place and that can sometimes be conducted as well.” She added that there is a distinction between commercial speech and political/religious speech. Regulations have to be “content neutral” meaning if political clubs are allowed to register voters at the marketplace then there shouldn’t be a concern for other campaign activity (which is considered protected free speech activity).

Van Muyden said that usually there is a designated area for this type of free speech to take place and, if that certain space is not available, then there must be adequate alternate channels for this type of communication to occur.

The board contends that having five or six booths of political candidates may detract from the overall purpose of the marketplace, which is to promote the vendors.

“There has to be some sort of mutual understanding,” said Andre Ordubegian, president of the Montrose Shopping Park Assn. board. “It doesn’t matter if you’re Republican or Democrat. Whatever it is, you need to come and ask us nicely [to engage in political activity]. What we’re missing right now is the communication part of it.”

The MSPA will take the issue to the Harvest Market Committee to further explore the issue including establishing specific times for political factions to rotate at an information booth or other options.