The Montpelier City Council returns from its summer hiatus this week with a full plate, including discussion of a new policy designed to set parameters for the approval of mural painting on city streets. The issue came to a head at the Council’s last meeting on July 8 when it rejected a request by a group led by Republican gubernatorial primary hopeful John Klar of Brookfield. Klar sought permission to tack the words “Liberty and Justice for All” onto the end of the “Black Lives Matter” mural that was painted on State Street in June in support of racial justice after the killing of unarmed African-American George Floyd by Minneapolis police. The Council unanimously denied Klar’s request to paint the words he borrowed from the Pledge of Allegiance, prompting the attempt to adopt guidelines for such proposals in the future. The Council in June unanimously supported the painting of the “Black Lives Matter” mural, which led Klar to call the decision on his proposal “unfair.” At the time of the denial, the Council indicated that street painting is not a First Amendment issue but rather one of “governmental speech.” The draft policy that council members will take up lays out a review process for street painting requests and, among other things, requires that anyone who proposes to paint a mural on city streets have the support of at least one councilor, or one who is willing to introduce the idea.The draft also suggests that approved murals be allowed to remain up to 12 months unless extended by the Council and says that the organizers of an approved mural are responsible for its maintenance. Also, murals proposed on state highways, such as routes U.S. 2 and Vermont 12, require review by VTrans. Mayor Anne Watson, who was recently married to Rep. Zachariah Ralph Watson, (P-Hartland), said the Council should take a prominent role in whatever messages are conveyed on city streets. Her husband has moved to Montpelier and is not seeking re-election to the House. “If painting the street is considered government speech, then it makes sense for someone on the City Council to be interested in making whatever statement is proposed,” she said. “It’s good to just clarify the process so that everyone knows what to expect.” The street painting policy also comes a week after police determined who defaced the “Black Lives Matter” mural on June 14, the day after it was painted. The suspect, Fred Seavey, 56, died in a single-car crash on I-89 on June 30. Seavey, a transient, was identified through DNA found on a can of red spray paint and through eyewitness and surveillance evidence. “On the one hand I’m glad they figured out who perpetrated it, and on the other hand it’s terribly sad that the fellow died and I’m thinking of his family as well,” Watson said.