Fort Payne council approves new permit for rescheduled GOP event

By Joseph M. Morgan

FORT PAYNE, Ala.—After inaction from the Fort Payne City Council two weeks ago led to the denial of an activity permit for the DeKalb County Republican Party (DCRP) to host a campaign event on city property, the group’s second attempt was successful when the council approved the rescheduled event to be held at the city-owned Coal & Iron Building tonight, Monday, Feb. 22 from 5 p.m. until 8 p.m.

The event, hosted by the DeKalb County Republican Women, is a meet-and-greet for political candidates. The group said the event is open to all DeKalb County elected officials and those who are currently seeking office as candidates in the 2016 election.

City leaders held a special council meeting last week to set an official policy regarding the rental of city property by political groups. The meeting was called after objection was raised to issuing a permit to DeKalb GOP’s original request two weeks ago on the grounds that the applicant was a political organization and that approving the GOP event then could open the door in the future to unsavory or dangerous political groups, hate groups or others that could prove unsafe to the people of the city.

An applicant's status as a political organization has not prevented access to city property in the past, and DeKalb GOP is the only group to have been denied a permit in recent years. Last year the sitting council approved the use of city property for Republican, Democrat, and Tea Party events, all held on city property.

Following the special meeting last week, the council voted Tuesday night to approve a resolution that in essence will continue the same unofficial policy that has always existed in Fort Payne of allowing political groups access to city property.

The resolution also gives the council the authority to deny a political group access to city property if they are in violation of a certain set of factors. “The City reserves the right to decline the request to use City facilities to any political party or other entity upon the following grounds: 1. A history of violence; 2. A recognized hate group; 3. Advocating the overthrow of the American government; 4. Having participated in war or combat against the United States, whether r (sic) 5. Any other reason which affects public safety or the rights of other citizens of not declared; or the City,” City of Fort Payne Resolution No. 2016-02.

None of the above disqualifying factors apply to the DeKalb County GOP.

Editor’s note: Our original report stated that the new policy was enacted by ordinance. In was actually enacted by resolution.