Can political candidates use the official seal of the City of Long Beach on their printed materials, Facebook and campaign websites? In most cities use of the city seal for personal or political purposes is illegal. But apparently that’s not the case in Long Beach, which is why Councilwoman Gerrie Schipske is asking for an ordinance to prohibit these uses of the City seal.
“The City seal and logo are the property of the City of Long Beach and are designated to identify official City business, facilities, events, and publications,” says Councilwoman Gerrie Schipske.
“Long Beach does not currently have code specifying allowable and prohibited uses of the City seal and logo. Therefore, there is no mechanism to prevent unauthorized use that could lead to public misperception that an event, candidate, endorsement, or position is officially sanctioned by the City.”
The Fifth District Councilwoman also notes that with more and more elected officials setting up personal websites and Facebook pages that are not official city sites, use of a City seal and logo give an impression that they are official and their contents approved by the City.
“As we enter campaign season it is important to have clear rules so that we don’t again see the City of Long Beach official seal on a webpage soliciting contributions for a Congressional political candidate,” Schipske points out.
Schipske adds that many cities have enacted ordinances controlling the use of the official seal and logo because of concern that allowing it would constitute a “gift of public property,” noting that if there is a determination that no public purpose was advanced by such use of City property, an illegal gift of public funds could result. Although the courts have liberally interpreted the definition of a public purpose, it would be difficult for the City to justify the allowance of such use, especially if the City limited such use to particular parties or individuals.
“Without an ordinance detailing the allowed and prohibited uses of the City Seal, it is difficult for the City to enforce its rights.”
Note: The first city seal was designed in the early 1900s and consisted of a ship sailing along the coast of Long Beach. In 1930, a contest was sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce with a prize of $150. The winning design selected was drawn by an employee in the City engineer’s office, Roland S. Gielow. Gielow’s design included what were then considered to be symbols which best represented Long Beach. Most of Gielow’s design was officially adopted on September 23, 1930. The 4 stars signifying Long Beach as the state’s 4th largest city and the Edison plant smoke stacks were removed. The rest remain: “Urbs Amicitiae” (Friendly City); airplane; port, oil derrick and Edison plant; a long beach; the municipal auditorium and rainbow lagoon; “Queen of the Beaches,” California bear, horn of plenty and a lamp and book (to symbolize the city’s cultural side).