What about petitioners at the Salt Lake County Fair who were cited for trespassing because they refused to pay a fee to gather signatures on their petitions? Let's consider:

1. If merchants want to rent a booth at the fair, they would pay for the booth, which had to be constructed for them, and also possibly a rental fee for commercial space.2. If a vendor wants to walk around the fairgrounds carrying merchandise on his back, would he be forced to buy a booth or pay only the commercial fee?

3. If a political candidate wants to buy a booth, would he also pay a rental fee? Since he is not selling for money, this might be negotiable, but rules should be the same for all and not depend on whether the fair manager likes him.

4. If a political candidate enters the fairgrounds wearing a big button with his name on it and talks to people, should he pay a fee? Or is he simply a citizen visiting the fair?

5. If a citizen petitioner enters the fairgrounds with his petition and talks to people, should he pay a fee, or is he simply a citizen visiting the fair? Is gathering signatures (votes) more taxable than a politician soliciting votes by being friendly?

There is a difference between selling merchandise and the exercise of free speech. "Privatizing" by leasing to a fair manager does not change the fact that the fair is a public event on public property; the demand that petitioners pay a fee appears to be inspired either by greed or envy.

Is buying a booth a free choice? Or are we now to be forced to buy? The day we start making citizens pay for the right to petition, we have overstepped our constitutional bounds.

Ruth Lehenbauer