Why is this ad OK at airport in Eugene but not Portland?

EUGENE, Ore. - The Port of Portland rejected an ad for the Portland Airport that is currently up at the Eugene Airport.

A detail of the ad on display at the Eugene Airport but refused by the Portland Airport.

The ad looks like a tourism promotion for Oregon but depicts a clearcut hillside with the slogan, "Welcome to Oregon, Home of the Clearcut."

The ad is on display in the baggage claim area at the Eugene Airport.

An airport spokesperson said the city attorney determined the Eugene Airport is subject to a 2008 court ruling involving ads on city busses in Portland.

In short: The Portland transit agency Tri-Met had tried to limit ads to goods and services. More than one court disagreed, ruling the ads are public space and protected by the First Amendment right to free speech.

A spokesperson for the Port of Portland said the Port "is not in violation of the Constitution" by seeking religious and political neutrality in advertisements posted in the PDX terminal.

'Try and soften this creative and resubmit' | 'ACLU has no position on forest practices, but ...'

"Terminal management staff did instruct our advertising agency, Alliance, to reject the advertisements in question. We did this because PDX rules restrict the placement of religious advertising in the airport to maintain neutrality on religious and political issues. Rules regarding this restriction are posted on our website (Advertising: Refer to Chapter 13 page 65; Free Speech Permit: Chapter 8, page 56).

"I also want to point out that the Port allows free speech activities in the Airport regardless of whether the message is religious or political through a Free Speech Permit. The Free Speech permit process is outlined on our website.

"In formulating the rules guiding airport operations, the Port researched these issues and determined that the Port of Portland is not in violation of the Constitution in applying these rules."

"Try and soften this creative and resubmit"

In emails between Sean Stevens of Oregon Wild and Doug McNaughton of Alliance Airport Advertising last month, McNaughton said the ad doesn't meet the Port's criteria.

"I have reservations PDX will allow this - based on two policies: 1. It is tied to a website that is of unknown content - I tried to look at the site and it messages that it is unpublished. They will want to see the content on the site. 2. It comes across - to me at least - as political in nature. As I mentioned before - theairport - per our contract - does not allow us to accept political advertising of any kind," McNaughton wrote in an email to Stevens on August 6, which he provided to a reporter.

"The airport has deemed this political advertising and has declined the creative," McNaughton wrote to Stevens a week later on August 13. "If you want to try and soften this creative and resubmit - -I am happy to do so -- but as discussed - any mention of issues, campaigns or candidates usually does not get approved."

"The ACLU has no position on forest practices, but ..."

Oregon Wild does not appear to dispute the political intent of the ad.

"Conservationists launched the campaign to increase public awareness of a proposal by Reps. Peter DeFazio, Greg Walden and Kurt Schrader to effectively privatize 1.5 million acres of publicly-owned land in western Oregon, turning it over to a private logging 'trust' to be managed under the weak Oregon Forest Practices Act, where clearcutting is rampant," the organization wrote in a press release about the advertisement.

But the political content of the ad isn't something a public entity like the Port can use as criteria, the ACLU of Oregon said in a joint press release with Oregon Wild.

"The ACLU has no position on forest practices, but an important part of our mission is to prevent government censorship of expression," said David Fidanque, executive director of the ACLU of Oregon. "The Port of Portland refuses to allow advertising they conclude is too controversial or political and that is exactly the type of content-based restriction our constitutional free speech protections are designed to prevent."

The ad is part of a campaign funded by Oregon Wild, The Sierra Club, Audubon Society of Portland and Center for Biological Diversity.

"No one comes to Oregon to go hiking in a clearcut, or fishing in a river that has been buried by a mudslide, and our ads are aimed at starting a public debate over the gap between our green reputation and the reality of what some politicians are proposing," said Bob Sallinger, conservation director for the Audubon Society of Portland.