Free Speech of Politcal Yard Signs
City abuses Constitutional Right of Speech on Campaign Signs
Lawrence, Mass. - In this manufacturing hub 25 miles north of Boston, controversy is growing by the square foot.
That’s because Lawrence bans political signs larger than six square feet. And in the last few weeks, the city has issued citations for some 30 campaign signs – each measuring 32 square feet – that supporters of state Rep. William Lantigua (D) placed on their private property. Representative Lantigua believes the ordinance violates freedom of speech, and has approached residents who received citations about challenging the law in court.
From Highlands, N.C., to Hawthorne, N.J., local ordinances governing political signs seem to be attracting legal scrutiny more frequently these days. At press time, Hawthorne’s borough council was expected to vote on a settlement with the ACLU regarding the topic, according to ACLU-NJ deputy legal director Jeanne LoCicero. The agreement would require Hawthorne to repeal or amend a law restricting homeowners from displaying political signs more than 32 days before an election or seven days after.
In a twist on the Hawthorne case, the dispute in Lawrence revolves around dimensional rather than durational limits on political signage.
Lantigua has taken down a few signs.
Meanwhile, questions are being raised about the intersection between political and commercial advertising, the threat political expression poses to community well-being, and the role a sign’s dimensions play in conveying political messages.
“If you have more onerous restrictions on political signs than on advertising, the argument is that political signs are being discriminated against,” says David Hudson Jr., a scholar at the First Amendment Center at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn. “But the case law is not uniform, and it’s enough of a muddled area that each side will have some fodder to fire off if it goes to litigation.”
The city is justified in treating political and commercial advertising differently because political signs appear in residential neighborhoods while commercial signs are confined to the business district and must gain approval from a local planning board, says Myles Burke, Lawrence’s commissioner of inspectional services.
Opponents of the law should take their grievances to city council and comply with the ordinance in the run-up to the Sept. 16 primary between Lantigua and his opponent, Marcos Devers, rather than look for a test case to launch a court challenge, Mr. Burke adds.
“Challenges and changing of the ordinance should come first before violations,” he says. “You’re putting a lot of supporters and individual owners of property at risk of some serious [$1,000-a-day] fines if the court and judge see it our way.”
Though the debate in Lawrence was touched off when a member of Mr. Devers’s campaign complained that Lantigua’s signs were oversized, Burke’s office has recently changed its approach and begun issuing citations – including a couple for Devers signs - based on violations of the state building code rather than size restrictions; according to city rules, people installing any sign larger than eight square feet on buildings must obtain a permit in the interest of public safety.
In Lantigua’s view, the new strategy is an underhanded way to sidestep the shaky legal grounds on which the city’s political sign ordinance stands. He says he’s never seen the state building code applied to political signs before.
“I think this is one of those cases when I have to stand up and say, ‘You know what? That ordinance, it is unconstitutional and you need to modify it,’” he says.
The legal precedent that lower courts typically cite when ruling on political signs is the 1994 US Supreme Court case City of Ladue v. Gilleo. In a unanimous decision, the court struck down a law prohibiting signs at private residences and described residential yard signs as “a venerable means of communication that is both unique and important.”
The court declared that ordinances can regulate the time, place, or manner of political speech only if they also enable residents to express themselves through “ample alternative channels for communication.”
Campaign Sign Printing
“Is the ‘time, place, and manner’ restriction [in Lawrence] appropriately related to some fairly urgent government need?” asks Harvard Law School professor Charles Fried.
As for the politicians, we're pretty much stuck with them. They will continue to use campaign signs and they need sign printing.
According to some city officials, one pressing government need is upholding community safety and aesthetics.
“The signs that are being put up are unsightly and obstruct motorist sightlines when coming out of certain streets,” City Council President Patrick Blanchette said in an e-mail interview. The part of the sign that you don't use may be recyclable. In some towns and at some supermarkets, you can recycle the plastic bag signs (look for the recycling triangle usually printed below the main message). Political campaign signs also may be recycled, but if it's printed on plastic or plastic-coated stock you'll have to toss it into the trash.
Political Campaign Signs,
Use of Political Lawn Signs
But Councilman Michael Fielding, who sent a letter to the city attorney Monday asking him to issue a clear directive to the city council on the ordinance, thinks the controversy in Lawrence has its roots in something more mundane than the US Constitution: a personal conflict between Lantigua and Devers that may have motivated Devers supporters to report Lantigua’s signs to authorities.
This year’s campaign is a rematch of a 2006 race in which Devers’s name was removed from the primary ballot after Lantigua questioned his residency status. He used political signs and lawn signs.
Do not remove signs from private property without permission. Win or lose, some folks -- for deep-seated psychological reasons -- seem to think they are making some profound statement by keeping signs up long after the election is over. (I recently spotted one house where several lawn signs are at least five or six years out of date.)
A cheap t shirt is wearing a sign. T-Shirts
Strong's Concordance with Hebrew and Greek Lexicon
Traditional Marriage - The Fence That Protects Our Society from the destruction of Gay Marriage
"Before you remove a fence, you need to ask why that fence was erected in the first place." There is a societal and Scriptural fence that was erected by Almighty God about 6,000 years ago. Many in our culture are seeking to tear down that fence of "Traditional Marriage" which was built by God. "Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh." Genesis 2:24.
You have the opportunity to maintain the fence of Traditional Marriage when you vote on Tuesday.
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Free Speech of Signs brings you Weekly Bible Verses
The Law Concerning Slavery
39 'And if one of your brethren who dwells by you becomes poor, and sells himself to you, you shall not compel him to serve as a slave.
40 As a hired servant and a sojourner he shall be with you, and shall serve you until the Year of Jubilee.
41 And then he shall depart from you—he and his children with him—and shall return to his own family. He shall return to the possession of his fathers.
42 For they are My servants, whom I brought out of the land of Egypt; they shall not be sold as slaves.
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