A Sitka man has filed a lawsuit against the city in Superior Court claiming that he was discriminated against when he was denied the chance to sell his self-published book to tourists at the Crescent Harbor dock.
The Daily Sitka Sentinel reports (http://is.gd/1CmKJd) John E. Welsh is asking for $9,000 per year in lost income from the city’s denial of a permit to sell the book on the new plaza near the dock. He is also asking for punitive damages against the city “until they desist in violating equal opportunity and freedom of expression on their property ....”
Welsh contends that the city allows sales of crafts by Native Americans near the dock, but as a non-Native he is not being allowed to sell his written work.
“My request to sell in the plaza has been denied because I am not of the ethnicity that is authorized to sell in the area,” he wrote in his civil complaint. “Preference or denial of equal access and opportunity on public property, based on ethnic origins, is illegal in the United States, in Alaska and in Sitka. I applied to sell the product of my writing craft in an area where others are allowed, based on their ethnicity, to sell their crafts. My craft is traditional, as is theirs.”
Welsh further says sales of other goods and services are allowed on the new plaza by paying a permit fee, and that under this provision he should be allowed to obtain a permit to sell his written materials.
“These permit holders use the text on their advertising materials, such as sandwich boards and handheld posters, to freely express themselves, a constitutional right,” he said. “They use freedom of expression to sell their products which are activities designed to entertain and inform visitors to Sitka.”
Welsh said the city refused to sell him a permit. “I am prohibited from displaying text on sandwich boards, on posters in order to sell written matter designed to entertain and to inform visitors to Sitka.”
Welsh said today the book he wants to sell and advertise on the plaza is a work of fiction that he wrote, titled “Alaska Trilogy.”
Sitka General Code section 6.16 states that in the Central Business District, where the plaza is located, the following private sales are allowed:
– incidental sales by juveniles of Alaskan items made by juveniles, or natural items collected by the juveniles, to tourists in the Crescent Harbor area,
– traditional sales of Alaskan items by Alaska Natives,
– sales of personally made arts and crafts items by senior citizens for charitable purposes,
– sales of items by juveniles, the proceeds from which will primarily benefit a recognized charitable organization dedicated to providing programs for youth; and sales of unique noncommercial items by juveniles.
Sitka General Code 6.19 states that a commercial advertising of tourism-related services is allowed near the dock for a $400 permit fee.
The city attorney was not available to comment today on the lawsuit.