"I am not a cry baby"
COLUMBIA, Mo 03/04/15 (Beet Bite)
-- You've undoubtedly seen them: so-called "Internet memes" some city leaders say are crossing the line.
Columbia city manager Mike Matthes smoking a blunt the size of a sewer pipe marked TIF.
Deputy city manager, failed dinner train promoter, and red light camera advocate Tony St. Romaine wearing a dunce cap.
Mayor Bob McDavid, crying in a diaper.
(Click pix for larger images.)
"These memes -- or whatever you call them -- have become so outrageous, so distasteful -- Staff thinks the time is right to propose an ordinance banning them," reads an email to Mayor McDavid, leaked last week to the Columbia Heart Beat.
"We see broad-based support for such a ban, from the development community, red light camera manufacturers, parking garage builders, student apartment investors, and the Chamber of Commerce, among others," the email explained.
The idea to ban "offensive memes" -- altered satirical photos of city leaders and other curmudgeons -- has been making the rounds at City Hall for about a year, a source who asked to remain anonymous told the Heart Beat.
The meme ban gained traction when then-First Ward Councilwoman Ginny Chadwick -- herself the subject of multiple meme-orials -- found a Stanford University study likening offensive memes to second hand smoke.
"Meme-viewing has been known to cause increases in heart rate and other cardiovascular activity, especially when the memes are unusually funny or downright hysterical," Chadwick wrote McDavid, citing the Stanford researchers. "I believe a case can be made that memes are bad for community health, and should be banned. Jonathan Sessions agrees."
Sessions-- a Columbia School Board Member and reformed Blight supporter -- was memed many times during the Blight debate.
"It was very hard on me," Sessions explained. "It was just terrible to have people point at me -- total strangers -- and say 'Haven't I seen you somewhere before?' and me say, 'Yeah -- I'm on the School Board,' and them say 'No, No -- that's not it,' only to later discover they had seen my face plastered on -- an offensive meme!"
Certain to spark Free Speech concerns, Columbia's meme ban would be a nationwide first -- and, city leaders say, a natural extension of City Hall's "Let's Ban Shit" legislative philosophy.
Recent bans, however -- including a proposal to ban alcohol in Douglass Park and a ban on e-cig sales to anyone under 21 -- have sparked successful Recall efforts.
"No question -- a ban on offensive memes could lead to a mass recall of any City Council members who support it," a CoMo Council Watch spokesperson said. "We're definitely keeping an eye on the situation."
Meme ban supporters, meanwhile, say their rights are being trampled by the doctored photos. They want the City Council to say "NO THANKS for the mem-ories."
"I think I have a right to walk down the street, or preside over Council meetings, or attend fundraisers and ribbon cuttings, without people picturing me in a diaper," Mayor McDavid -- a retired obstetrician -- told the Heart Beat in a rare interview.
"I've seen a lot of cry babies in my time, and I'm not one of them."