June 01, 2001 11:00 pm

By Gary Fletcher

Observer Staff Writer

JOSEPH Hog Wild Days may be going strong in Island City this weekend, but the days of the pink pig on Josephs Main Street have come to an end.

A judge this week ordered the ornamental barbecue off the sidewalk, but stopped short of imposing any punishment on its owner, Jim Russell.

Ive never seen an ordinance like that, Wallowa County Circuit Court Judge Eric Valentine said about the municipal law governing sidewalk signs, which he interpreted as leaving the imposition of any penalty up to the Joseph City Council, which meets at 7 p.m. Tuesday.

I like the pig, Joseph Mayor Max Prout said, but theres an ordinance on the books and it (the court) had to come out with this decision.

Russell tends to agree. He said Valentine did not have any other choice but to rule the way he did.

Russell knew he was guilty of violating Josephs new ordinance, but feels like he was singled out, and unjustly lost one of his rights.

For 20 years, I just assumed I had the right to use the sidewalk, he said.

Russell said that Joseph got carried away when assuming right-of-way jurisdiction over sidewalks when Highway 82 was rebuilt down Main Street, as was also done in Elgin, Wallowa and Enterprise.

Enterprises ordinance is short and to the point, Russell said. It just addresses what the state requires (signs, not merchandise).

But, in Joseph, Its a prime example of a minority (the city council) telling the majority what to do.

A petition signed by 43 businesses owners has asked the city to revise the ordinance, Russell said. A committee is working on a revision to be discussed Tuesday, Prout said.

Under the current ordinance, at the citys request, Wallowa County Sheriff-elect Fred Steen cited Russell on Dec. 26.

Since then, I waited a long time for a decision, Russell said about appearing alone in court three times since January, until the judge asked city councilors to appear in court Wednesday, he said.

Russell left the court that day and removed the pig from the walk, even though Valentines order had given him until June 15 to do so.

Russell has promised his hundreds of supporters a barbecue cookout, but a date for that event has not been set. Then they can once again see this little piggy that went inside.