Talk tablet takes shape

The writing surface of the monument are panels of Buckingham slate supported by a simple concrete wall approximately fifty-five feet long and seven feet high. Standing in front of City Hall, it will contain two sections, one inscribed with the First Amendment and one a large chalkboard where people can write and erase messages. In front of the wall, a trench filled with chalky white gravel or crushed brick will provide the writing materials, and a podium will stand to one side.

The Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression recently leased the space from the City for three years (rent: $1 a year). At the end of that time, the Center has the right to renew, provided the city doesn't "terminate this Lease Agreement at any time, for its convenience."

The Jefferson Center is required to host events at the monument exploring the Constitutional right to free speech (the First Amendment). The lease places particular emphasis on educating the public about the "legal exceptions" to that right, including "obscenity, slander and libel, threats, incitement of lawless behavior, fighting words and fraudulent misrepresentation." (How about yelling "fire" in a crowded Pavilion?)

The lease requires the Center to "wipe the slate clean" once a week and to remove anything that has defaced the wall, such as graffiti, within 24 hours. The lease also requires the Center to take out a $1,000,000 comprehensive public liability insurance policy on the structure.

What the monument will look like