A Lake Point billboard with the image of a woman in a two-piece bathing suit stirred up a discussion of community decency standards at the Tooele County Commission’s Nov. 19 meeting.
Yvonne Averett of Erda, came to the microphone at the end of the meeting during the public comment period, and asked the commissioners to adopt a non-binding resolution that supports child friendly community standards.
The request was sparked by the billboard, which is visible from SR-36 and advertises a local laser clinic.
“What has got some of us concerned is the billboard entering Tooele Valley,” said Averett. “It is the first of its kind here. It, being the first, is setting a community standard of indecency and can be used against us. Therefore we want to try and establish something now so we don’t set a precedent for this in the future.”
The image on the billboard can have a negative impact on children, according to Averett.
“Pictures teach,” she said. “These type of images contribute to the process of how children’s values, knowledge and attitudes about sexuality are formed and are damaging to children.”
Averett, who said she was representing a group of citizens, asked commissioners to adopt a resolution that would support their cause of promoting child friendly community standards.
“I am proposing that Tooele County choose to be family friendly and child protective,” she said. “By adopting a resolution that establishes a community standard of child appropriateness, citizens of the county can use it to encourage businesses, schools, and public and private institutions to follow suit and keep that child appropriate standard.”
Averett defined a child appropriate standard for material suitable for public display as material suitable for a six year-old child to be given to explore and study.
While Averett understands the type of resolution she requested is not enforceable by law, it will still help citizens battle for a child and family friendly community.
“It does help in setting the tone and our efforts as community members to promote such standards,” she said.
Community decency standards are not easy to define, according to Tooele County Attorney Doug Hogan.
“We don’t have community standards that are set in county statutes or a resolution,” he said. “We have the same community standard defined by the U.S. Supreme court for all of the country. They are defined not just by what is on a billboard. It is what you allow in cable packages, what is available in your community, what you get on Dish Network or Direct TV. It is all sorts of things like what can come in your mailbox. These are all things that affect your community standard.”
Hogan said he was familiar with the billboard in question.
“In my opinion I don’t believe it [the billboard] to be violative of a community standard,” he said.
In response to a question from Averett on how she could get commissioners to adopt a resolution supporting child friendly community standards, Hogan suggested using a petition.
Commissioners Bruce Clegg and Jerry Hurst offered to meet with Averett and discuss her concerns.
“It is not a debate about what is on a sign right now,” Averett said. “It is about setting a precedent for what we want our children to see.”