In this area, patriotism has limits
Neighborhood association orders residents to take down banner
Article Courtesy of Las Vegas Review Journal 

May 08, 2003

Joni Briggs did not want to start trouble. She just wanted to show her support for U.S. troops overseas, especially those who are close to her family. 

And so Briggs, a recent Midwestern transplant to Las Vegas, placed a sign on her garage door: "God Bless America." 

Her neighbors don't seem to mind it. But her homeowners association does. 

Joni Briggs refuses to remove this 41-inch-by-15 and 1/2-inch sign from her garage door, per her homeowners association's orders.

In a "courtesy notification" sent to Briggs and her husband, Gary, last week, the association told them to remove the sign, which they classified as a banner. "It must come down immediately," the letter read. 

Joni Briggs is steamed. 

"First I was really hurt," she said. "Then I got angry." 

Briggs said she immediately fired off a letter to the Sterling at Silver Springs homeowners association. With a red marker, she wrote the word NO in large letters, and explained that she would not take the sign down until friends of hers who are serving in the military in the Middle East come home. 

"What are you," she wrote, "anti-American or complete idiots?" 

She also sent off letters to the media, with pictures of her garage door. 

Contacted Wednesday, Property Manager Eyoshi Milerlei said Briggs appears to be overreacting. No fine has been imposed, and she has not formally been found in violation. 

And, Milerlei added, the Briggses can appeal to the homeowners association board for a waiver. The board is "very flexible," she said. 

Still, there clearly are rules that prevent such signage, she said. It's not like the association is trying to stop them from flying the American flag or anything. 

"The association doesn't want to inhibit anyone from displaying their patriotic feelings," Milerlei said. "But we have governing documents that people must follow." 

Briggs admits she is passionate about many things. She said the issue over the sign on her garage door especially fires her up because her father-in-law, an 83-year-old World War II veteran who is dying of cancer, made it specifically for them. 

It was just three weeks after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks when Raymond Briggs, a retired sign painter, sent the sign from Ohio. 

The Briggses, who live in a new subdivision near Sam Boyd Stadium in southeastern Las Vegas, taped the sign to their garage door on the Fourth of July last year. 

No one said a word, and they took the sign down the next day. 

Then, this year, when President Bush ordered Saddam Hussein to leave Iraq or be forced out, the Briggses figured war was inevitable, and so they taped the sign to the garage door again. 

That was on March 17. Six weeks passed before the letter from their homeowners association came. 

"We've never had an altercation with the homeowners association. We don't break the rules," said Joni Briggs. "But I am not going to give up on this." 

She said her nephew recently returned from Iraq, but the sign stays up while several other family friends are still overseas. 

That's OK with her neighbors. 

"I think it's fine," said Annie Mayer, who lives around the corner from the Briggses. "I don't see why you can't have something on the garage door, especially at a time like this." 

Next door to Mayer, Fay and Sylvester Smith said Briggs' sign never bothered them. 

"If she feels strongly about something and she wants to express herself, that's her right," Sylvester Smith said. 

Across the street from Briggs, Shelby Long, who served in the Marine Corps from 1946 to 1948, said he likes his unobstructed view of the 41-inch by 15 1/2-inch sign. 

"Don't bother me at all," he said. "In fact, I'm glad to see it there."