Update on Sign Ordinance

Update on Sign Ordinance

Postby Thepuffin » Wed Dec 07, 2011 1:27 pm

7:45 p.m Dec 7
Update 1: I have been told--at best third hand--that a large banner with the Margaret Mead quote was taken down because city officials threatened to cite the sign-placer. Does anyone have more info on this?
Over the past couple of days I've been researching the possibility of enjoining the city from enforcing its sign ordinance at Occupy Eugene. Here is what I have discovered thus far:

Bob Macherone, the owner of the Sports Car Shop on W. 6th, was fined by the city for refusing to move his anti-EMx sign. A hearing was held November 3. No decision has been rendered yet. Mr. Macherone intends to appeal the fine.

The Oregon ACLU has sent a second letter to the Eugene City Attorney pointing out that the sign ordinance should not be enforced. We can assume they are still threatening to sue, though I have not seen the letter yet.

I went to the site yesterday and today and saw signs pretty much everywhere, including on fences, tents, on stakes in the ground, etc. I talked with several campers, and no one could say they or anyone they knew of had been hassled at the site regarding signage. I could find no one that had.

It is my opinion that the city is purposefully ignoring the sign issue w/r/t Occupy Eugene, because they believe the site will be shut down on or shortly after Dec. 15. They will shut it down based on health and/or safety concerns, the "national security" trump card for local governments. Therefore, the signs will not be an issue.

It is further my opinion that the fact the City has taken no action against OE signage lends support to the argument that it is an impermissible content-based restriction--because the City went after Macherone.

Because the goal is to strike down/rewrite the ordinance so that free speech is protected, I recommend we do nothing at this time. The reason is simple: the City is, for its own reasons, letting this dog lie, and by letting it lie, they inadvertently throw weight behind the lawsuit that is brewing over the anti EMx signs. The city's own records will hang them when slides of Occupy signs hanging from trees and so on are shown to the judge, while anti-EMx signs are targeted, and they are left to stammer "B-bbut it's content-neutral---"

In my opinion, a letter to the city telling them not to enforce or we'll sue is premature for two reasons--First, there is no obvious enforcement occurring. If someone can name a cop or other official who communicated this, or show me a letter or citation where they threaten enforcement, I might think differently. Right now all I have is a bunch of signs and people who say nobody's bothering them.

Second, and more important, the goal of striking the ordinance might be best achieved by "doing nothing". Right now, the city's behavior paradoxically both allows OE signage which violates the ordinance while strengthening the case that the ordinance is unconstitutional--because OE signs should be cited as well.

My recommendation, then, is for OE hang signs until someone shows up--which is already happening as far as I can tell.. If someone gets cited or an official threatens to, then we write letters/threaten to bring suit.

In the short run, free speech--for OE and everyone--is best served by lying in wait--like a spitting cobra.

If anyone has any input on this, please have at it. I will continue to stay abreast of developments. I'll flesh out the legal arguments a little bit in the meantime.

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