All across Pima County, seasonal decorations festoon homes, businesses and, in some cases, government buildings.

While some governments have decked the halls with more obvious displays of holiday glee, others have opted for lesser touches.

The Town of Oro Valley and City of Tucson have decided upon a less festive option, if in appearance only. The Town of Marana, Pima County and the state of Arizona have bright Christmas displays on government grounds.

Despite having in the past decorated the Oro Valley administration building and the main reception desk, the area where most visitors to town hall enter, no visible decorations can be seen this year.

The change emanates from a directive sent out by interim Town Manager Jerene Watson before the Halloween holiday just passed.

In it, Watson instructed employees that no overt seasonal decorations would be allowed in public view in deference to people who may find such embellishments offensive or contrary to their own personal beliefs.

"Currently there is no formalized protocol or policies with respect to holiday celebrations and decorations, but we do need to be sensitive to the diversity of views and beliefs and remain professional and respectful to all," Watson wrote in the Oct. 9 e-mail to town employees.

The directive prompted the removal of Halloween decorations from the front desk.

Watson said the directive was born out of a conversation with someone who brought to her attention concerns about the Halloween display in the town hall reception area. She declined to say who told her about the display.

"I'm not going to share that because the person did it in the right way," Watson said, adding, "I don't want to have anyone get a black eye over this."

The town hall lobby also has limited floor space, Watson noted, which makes it unsuitable for Christmas trees or other displays.

Some town department buildings do have holiday displays, including foliage and an Adopt-a-Family giving tree.

"I've heard zero about anyone with any problems," Watson said.

Last year, the trees in front of town hall were adorned with lights. A large wreath also was hung above the entranceway to council chambers.

This year the items were not on display, in part because the town's tree lighting ceremony was not held at town hall.

A similar non-policy on holiday displays is in effect at the City of Tucson, where the city hall lobby stands free from decoration.

"The city doesn't do a public display, per se," said Michael Carson, public information coordinator with the city of Tucson.

Carson said individual departments do have holiday decorations on display in public areas, as do some of the city council members in their offices.

"In essence, what happens in various departments is left up to department heads," Carson said.

While the city has no policy on holiday or seasonal decorations, it does provide safety guidelines for the use of ornamentations and lights in the workplace.

A few steps across El Presidio Plaza at the Pima County Administration Building, it's a different story. The reception desk there has numerous holiday displays in public view. The same holds for the information desk at Superior Court.

Even more conspicuous, in the courtyard of Pima County Justice Court on Church Avenue stand four Christmas trees, wrapped gifts, garland and wreaths.

The Pima County Recorder's office in the same building has in the public waiting area a decorated Christmas tree, lights and garland.

County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry said departments are allowed to determine what and how employees want to recognize the holidays. He said there have been no complaints over the displays at county buildings.

"We let common sense prevail," Huckelberry said.

As for any policy, the county administrator said the only thing off limits is putting lights in trees as a matter of safety.

In the Town of Marana, Christmas remains on full display. A decorated tree and seasonal colored light display adorn the courtyard in front of the municipal complex. Inside, two lighted Menorahs mark Hanukah, the Jewish holiday.

Town spokesman Rodney Campbell said the town has no policy in place on the use of holiday decorations.

Down the street from the Pima County Administration building and Tucson City Hall, the Arizona State Government building has a Christmas tree on display in the lobby.

Gov. Jan Brewer recently circulated a news release from her campaign Web site admonishing previous administrations and other states for not allowing public displays acknowledging the holiday season.

"As you may know, in the past, state and local officials in Arizona (and elsewhere) have attempted to strip both Christmas and Hanukkah of their meaning, including establishment of policies forbidding state employees from placing religious items of celebration at their desks, re-naming of Christmas trees as 'holiday' trees, and renaming of Menorahs as 'candlesticks,'" Brewer wrote.

The e-mail publicized an executive order the governor signed on Dec. 16, which prohibits state agencies from imposing limitations on how state employees celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah or other holidays.

Brewer's order referenced former Gov. Janet Napolitano, the current Secretary of Homeland Security, who was the subject of controversy during her tenure at the state's helm, for a perceived unwillingness to use the more religious terms like "Christmas" when discussing the holidays.

The order says state officials can't rebuke their underlings for using the terms "Merry Christmas" or "Happy Hanukkah" or placing items in their workspaces commemorating the holidays.

Despite the differences in how each government publicly recognizes the holidays, none have placed restrictions on allowing employees to place decorations in their workspaces or imposed speech codes.


Note: Late last week, Oro Valley officials decided to install Christmas decorations in the reception area of the town administration building. Those include a small table-top tree. 

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