Up until Wednesday, Republican National Convention delegates could expect to see video of Guantanamo detainees, scenes from the Iraq war, and movies like “Body of War” broadcast on a pair of Jumbotron trucks from the capitol front lawn. But thanks to Minnesota’s second-highest constitutional officer, Republican Lt. Gov. Carol Molnau, the project’s permit was denied.
That’s not the end of it, though: The digital billboard’s sponsor, True Blue Minnesota, is heading to court this afternoon in hopes of winning back the right to present the videos.
A 527 group, True Blue Minnesota has long planned to park a pair of mobile digital billboards just off the intersection of John Ireland Boulevard and Kellogg, within eye-shot of next week’s Republican National Convention. The group obtained a permit from the city, the land’s owner, back in April. But on Wednesday, the Capitol Area Architectural and Planning Board (CAAP), which also has jurisdiction over the space, held a vote over the project, tying 5 to 5, along party lines. Molnau cast the deciding no-vote, citing traffic-safety concerns.
Martha Ballou, president of True Blue Minnesota, says such concerns are “phony,” citing the low speed limits at the intersection, the low impact of the project, and the fact that the signs will be placed a fair distance from the road. “The capitol area is the front lawn for politics in Minnesota, and everyone goes there with a variance,” she told me. “Taste of Minnesota has operated there. They granted a variance to The Daily Show. The only one they haven’t granted one to is us.”
It’s interesting, she adds, that only the CAAP’s Republican members raised safety concerns. “They’re kneecapping political opposition during the Republican convention and using government means to do so.”
Some heavy-hitters are contributing to the Jumbotrons’ video content: Phil Donahue contributed “Body of War.” John Cusick offered up “War, Inc.” And “Outfoxed” filmmaker Robert Greenwald is making available his entire film library. Ballou suspects this content, as well as videos submitted by citizens, is what prompted Molnau’s vote.
“Everybody wants [the RNC] to go well. And the way this can go well is to allow everyone to have their say,” Ballou says. “How much more peaceful can you be then a huge outdoor television? But we do have pictures of people at Abu Ghraib. We will put the GOP record up. That’s what they’re trying to stop. This is a critical constitutional issue for everyone in Minnesota.”
At 3 p.m. this afternoon, Ballou will appear in Ramsey County court seeking a temporary restraining order against Molnau and the CAAP board so the project can go on as planned.