Vermont Agency of Transportation won’t remove most murals, graffiti seen from highway

By Guy Page

The Vermont Agency of Transportation on June 19 instructed employees to not remove murals, signs or graffiti in the highway right-of-way unless profane, grotesque or dangerous to traffic, according to two agency memos.

The action represents a reversal of the longstanding policy of removing or painting over graffiti and other messaging. The policy change was made after guidance from the governor’s office, and was in response to a complaint from a protester whose chalk-written messages on the VT-30 bridge in Jamaica were erased. One message said “No Justice, No Peace,” and the other listed names of black people killed by police and others.

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The existence of the two memos surfaced during Gov. Phil Scott’s press conference Monday.. At Vermont Daily’s request, AOT spokesperson Amy Tatko provided the memos, which are printed below.

Agency of Transportation

After a complaint from the author of this message written in chalk on a bridge on Route 30 in Jamaica, the Agency of Transportation decided Friday, June 19 it will not remove any road or bridge messaging, sign or graffiti unless profane, grotesque, or unsafe. (AOT photo)

On 1:57 pm Friday, June 19, Tatko emailed to AOT leaders:

“Connie [Englert, AOT General Manager of Highway Maintenance and Operations] reported to a handful of us this morning that some chalk messages (see photos) on the VT-30 bridge in Jamaica Village were cleaned up per standard VTrans practice. I then received a call from someone in Jamaica involved with putting up those messages who wished to learn why we had removed them. After discussions with the governor’s office, the policy is changed, effective immediately:

  • If the message is not profane or grotesque, leave it. If it is profane or grotesque, remove it.
  • If it’s on a sign and inhibiting roadway safety, remove it.
  • This would be a good time to exercise some discretion. These voices need to be heard. Use this as an opportunity to advance the discussion, rather than censoring it.

“When I talked with the person in Jamaica, he told me that his group has already written the message in chalk again. I assured him that it would remain in place this time.”

An hour and a half later, AOT Chief Engineer Wayne Simonds emailed a follow-up message clarifying and expanding somewhat on Tatko’s email:

“First, I appreciate the work you have been doing to carry out previous guidance for the removal of unauthorized “murals” (graffiti, messages and tagging) and illegal signs.  You and your staff have done exactly what was required and asked.  However, we are in ever changing times and we must recognize that and adapt.  So effective immediately,  I ask you now to evaluate the content and situation of any mural or sign in the highway right of way before deciding to remove or paint over them. Guidance:

  • All signs that negatively affect roadway safety shall be removed regardless of content.
  • If a sign is not either profane, grotesque, advocates illegal activity or violence it should be allowed to remain.
  • Any mural or paint applied to a highway sign shall be removed regardless of content.

For murals painted on bridges and walls:

  • If a mural contains messages or images that are not either profane, grotesque, advocate illegal activity or violence it should be allowed to remain.
  • All murals should be photographed prior to removal or painting over.
  • If you or your staff have any questions on content and are not sure whether a sign or mural should be removed or encounter a situation not contemplated in the guidance, please send a picture to the Chief Engineer’s Office for assistance.

The Jamaica messages were written in chalk, which is easily erasable and is washed away by rainfall. However, the policy change goes beyond just permitting chalk. It specifically allows paint, presumably including permanent paint and spray paint.

Although the new policy seems to indicate that messages on other topics will receive the same lenience, Vermont Daily last night asked Tatko to clarify: “Does the new policy apply to other non-profane, etc. statements – such as Blue Lives Matter, All Lives Matter, Jesus Saves, Save the Whales, etc.?” As of yet no response has been received.

It is also not clear how this new policy complies with Vermont’s billboard law, which bans most roadway messaging and in the words of the Vermont Natural Resources Council “is a strong step in creating road corridors free of visual clutter.”

Read more of Guy Page’s reports. Vermont Daily is sponsored by True North Media.

Image courtesy of Agency of Transportation

19 thoughts on “Vermont Agency of Transportation won’t remove most murals, graffiti seen from highway

  1. It is hard to imagine a worse governor than Phil Scott. Not because his backbone is made of spaghetti, but because he lied about being a Republican. Acting in accordance with who you are is one thing, but lying about who you are to gain public office is quite another. He is a fraud.

  2. Let me see if I understand this. Billboards are illegal in Vermont because they are ugly, but if Comfort Inn (or anybody else) wants to advertise along the roadside, they can use a can of spray paint or chalk on bridge abutments concrete walls, statues, and on blacktop. Brilliant !

  3. Exactly how is this any different then being distracted by TEXTING ????

    If it causes people to “rubber neck” then it’s as dangerous as texting and violators putting
    the distraction there should be assessed the same fine/punishment…

    Blind Lady Justice you know…

  4. What ever happened to the beautification police. Someone throws a small piece of paper out of a car window and they are charged with littering yet vandals are allowed to make a huge mess of our highways and bridges. Apparently the Highway Department doesn’t want to offend those poor babies trying to persuade the folks that their rights are being abused. Discusting. All the hollow talk in Montpelier about preserving the beauty of the state. Wind mills, solar farms now defacing our highways are A OK!!!. What’s next??? These people have their priorities all screwed up!!!

  5. How many times does Scott have to show he likes the New World Order and their pimps better than America or the Republican Party before he receives his gold watch and “voluntary” retirement from the Republican Party???????

    What’s a man gotta’ do to get booted from that club any how?

    Is this graffiti profane?

    Scott for Democratic Governor
    Scott pimpin’ for the NWO

        • The “democratic” party of Vermont allowed Bernie to run on both tickets, as independent and also as a democrat.

          This kept any true American loving Democrat from running against him. They he would drop the D once elected, been going on for decades.

          I know this is not the intent. But the Republican party has allowed Gov. Scott to run under their banner. Except for show a modicum of fiscal restraint we might as well have a D on the ticket.

          And when a conservative runs on the ticket he’ll get nationally money, a million dollars from the Republican Governors to run against people like Keith Stern on the last election/primary.

          I have vote for Scott, he is popular, but he’s clearly, clearly not sticking up for any values of the Republican party. He’s not even standing up for American values,. like safe voting and takes orders from the United Nations rather than actual scientists who aren’t pimping for the New World Order.

          Vermont is so corrupt, so corrupt.

          How can you get local people on the ticket if within the parties they have everything fixed? He needs to be off the ticket, he can win as an independent or as a democrat, truth in voting please.

  6. This lunacy raises an interesting question. When the passage of time and traffic, salt and snowplow begins to erode the ‘Appeasement Slogan’ painted on the street in front of our lovely State Capital Building, will it be allowed to be repainted? Will the original painters repaint it at their own expense, or is it expected that the taxpayer funded Agency of Transportation will halt and divert traffic and repair the slogan on a scheduled basic, like a ‘LEFT TURN ONLY’ lane? And will this over-the-top example of virtue signaling remain there in perpetuity?

    • Before the snow flies this year, I will be repainting the letters, since I’m a self-declared artist. It will look fabulous with a fresh coat of black paint.

  7. I would like an answer as to whether other “signs” will be left or removed?? I would like everyone to know I love jesus, we should all save the whales, even though we have none in Vermont, and I’d like to share my political thoughts and ideas all across the state with this lovely paint that I have. Also when will it be another political parties turn to have their logo in front of the state house. Fair is fair right??

    • I am with you, Jane,…..literally. I’ll be out painting the town as well. John 3:16, save the whales, and MAGA on every available space I can find. This is gonna be fun!

      • MAGA…..Love, there will be an immediate policy change, (chucking away)

        How about TRUMP 2020?…….lol

        oh, even names like Clarence Thomas…..what to do then? too funny.

    • You are right and how many real estate signs will vanish or are they representative of bad business?

  8. Graffiti is still destruction of property. Caving to public pressure while allowing others to rewrite the rules that have kept Vermont clean and free of visual distractions, other than nature, is an aggressive step toward allowing mob rule. We are now no longer protecting the freedom of all, only the loud.

  9. It would appear that most State employees, as well as our elected representatives, have caved to the will of those who’ve expressed an intent to ‘Burn it all down’.
    Not a good policy at all – appeasing terrorists. This WILL NOT end well.

  10. What, with all the surveillance camera’s they can’t catch these vandals
    and make them pay for clean up charges ??

    Oh, that’s right, vandalism is a form of free speech………… yeah.

    Officials are either leaders or followers !!

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