Despite criticism from citizens about the Hillsdale City Council’s decision to replace the ‘It’s the People’ welcome sign on M‑99 with one reading ‘Home of Historic Hillsdale College,’ the item did not appear on the council’s Monday meeting agenda.
“We did not add the item to the agenda because the body had agreed at the last meeting that once the new signs were installed, the council would look at additional options to include the old logo, ‘It’s the People,’ onto the new signs,” City Manager David Mackie said.
Hillsdale Councilman William Morrisey did, however, discuss the possibility of hosting a contest in the city to determine a design for a new ‘It’s the People’ sign that would be attached to the ‘Home of Historic Hillsdale College’ signs or placed in another location in the city.
Though not an official or final decision, the move by Morrisey is the council’s first step toward reaching an agreement with the citizens regarding the wording of the signs.
“That’s actually my thought — turning this around and having some sort of artistic contest in the city and turning it into a good thing,” resident Penny Swan told the Collegian.
Swan was the only one to speak out against the signs at the meeting, slashing hopes that a group of citizens would arrive to demand change. She said she was devastated that nobody else came, but happy about Morrisey’s suggestion.
“I call this a huge win for me tonight,” Swan said.
Morrisey shared his idea during the council’s public comment section, where councilmen are able to comment on matters not listed on the agenda.
“The idea would be for someone — maybe Ms. Swan — to chair an organization with an executive committee,” Morrisey said. “They would need some legal advice so they wouldn’t get in any trouble, and then they would need to run a ‘design the sign’ contest, so the slogan on the previously existing sign, ‘It’s the people,’ would be integrated into a nice total design concept that would all make sense.”
Morrisey said he thinks the new sign should not be part of the ‘Home of Historic Hillsdale College’ sign but another, independent one.
“Instead of just putting a little sign at the bottom of the new sign which doesn’t fit the new sign, we need to think bigger on this,” Morrisey said. “We should have two signs it seems to me.”
He said the city may need to raise money for the new signs but explained it may be possible to have the materials — and even man hours — donated.
“We certainly have a number of carpenters and painters in this town who would be capable of implementing such a design,” Morrisey said.
Also at the meeting was Hillsdale Professor of political economy Gary Wolfram, who commented that the ‘Home of Historic Hillsdale College’ signs would bring economic benefit to the Hillsdale area. He cited an economic theory explaining that a wayfinding sign — which directs visitors to a significant location, and what the ‘Home of Historic Hillsdale College’ sign will be — invites visitors to stop and patronize the city’s businesses.
“Millions of people know Hillsdale College, but they might not know where it is,” Wolfram said. “When someone drives through, they can stop and get lunch somewhere. And Hillsdale is historic — just look at the Keefer House.”
Wolfram explained that the purpose of the sign is for outsiders to stop, and that a sign identifying a reason for them to do so is a way for the city to make money.
Mackie said the city intends to complete installation of the new signs this week, and anticipates discussing options for a potential add-on during one of the October meetings.