One Billboard in Troy, New York

Ideas and Issues

New Orleans   New York is making a horse’s butt of itself.

A woman, named Kat Sullivan, put up a billboard last year in Troy, New York, near where she went to school in the 1990s at the private Emma Willard School there.  She put up others last year in Massachusetts and Connecticut.  She also hired a pilot to fly over the New York State Capitol.  She is a registered nurse.  She did this with her own personal money.  Her issue was straightforward.  She was urging passage of the Child Victims Act, which would extend the statute of limitations on child sexual abuse.

She knew what she was talking about, because it had happened to her when she was a student at the Emma Willard School some twenty years ago, and she was sexually abused and raped by a teacher.  She held her tongue until 2016, when she finally disclosed the abuse.  The school finally investigated and found a pile of problems coming back decades.  The report they commissioned also fingered a teacher, who the Times reported, “was later fired for having a sexual relationship with a student.  That student was Ms. Sullivan.”

So, how is New York State in the process of making itself an example of ridiculous, mindless overreach and suppressing free speech?  Get this!  They are trying to claim that Kat Sullivan is a lobbyist and must register as one because her expenditures on the pilot and billboards is over the arbitrary limit, they had set demanding registration in a new law.  Worse, they are threatening to fine Sullivan $40,000 for not registering.

Sullivan for her part is through with taking abuse from any teacher or bullying state government.  She’s refused to register even though it would be relatively trivial for her to do so, a couple of hundred bucks maybe.  She says she has freedom of speech. She’s 100% right!  Furthermore, she notes that the New York lobbying law says a lobbyist has to have a client, and she doesn’t have one, unless you could call her own sweet self a client.  She also notes that only one of her billboards was in New York, and it was under the $5000 threshold triggering lobbyist registration.  I guess I could just say she’s not 100% right, but more like a 1000% right, but instead I’ll just say, those are technicalities.  Freedom of speech trumps any narrow definition that opposes grassroots lobbying, and, hey, what’s wrong with legitimate grassroots lobbying – that’s freedom of speech as well.  Hey, ACLU, get on the job.  Contact Kat Sullivan.  She doesn’t need any help it seems, but why not at least offer.

Furthermore, I know I am not the only one in America who watches movies on airline trips.  I see you in front of screens!  So, remember, 2017, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” with Frances McDormand of ’Fargo” fame?  She played a woman – a mother – who rented three billboards to prod the police into further investigation of her daughter’s unsolved rape and murder.  This was about small town bumblers in flyover land, and they could handle it, but big time, sophisticated New York State wants to muscle up on this woman trying to get justice for other young women.

Maybe they don’t have movie theaters in New York anymore.  If not, they should stream a clue, back the frick up, let this woman – and millions of others – speak their piece, and remember that whether they don’t like it or President Trump doesn’t like it, some of us are still going to stand up and proclaim our freedom of speech at the top of our lungs.

Or failing that, on a billboard.