When you are Downtown, you can look into the shop windows. It is often hard to resist. You look in and see what they are doing or promoting. Maybe you need some, so you stop in. Merchants tend to show off their goods, which is why we have so many glass windows along the Boulevard.
It is not only stores selling merchandise. Restaurants often put tables out where they can be seen. I have also seen tailors working, and various tools of trades, through many Downtown shop windows.
Sure, visible displays can be scary: Seeing me inhaling all that food may scare small children. I suppose a mattress store would not want me dozing in their window, either. It is up to the merchant to decide what he wants to show.
At least, it ought to be. However, our city bureaucrats have appointed themselves a sort of super-merchant. Despite never having to make it in the world of private enterprise, they know more than the merchants as to what should be in the shop windows.
Thus, we have the city bringing code enforcement against a computer seller on Woodland. He has computer stuff in his window, including some large computer screens. We ought to be clear: These are not signs, but merchandise. You can walk in and buy this stuff.
The problem is that this sort of merchandise was not what Henry DeLand and John Stetson expected to see in the shop windows. It flunks the city’s quaintness test. As codified, quaintness is left as a matter of official taste.
Still, it takes some frank dishonesty for code enforcement to call merchandise a sign. Naturally, bureaucrats deem it an illegal sign. Compare a perfectly legal 12-year-old “temporary” billboard on U.S. Highway 92, which will probably still be there when the rest of the state is underwater.
A shoe store can pile shoes in its window because the city fathers had shoes. Those are not deemed signs. Electric lights are barely permissible, with special permission, because Mr. Stetson had the first power in Florida.
However, Mr. Stetson did not have computers. Evidently, neither should we. At least, if we do have computer stuff, it should be hidden out of sight. None of this modern merchandise in store windows, please, which tells us what city bureaucrats are thinking — plywood is cheaper, and they suddenly developed an urge for thrift!
— Andrews is a DeLand-area attorney and a longtime government critic. For purposes of the column, he finds it convenient that there is so much government to criticize.