Changes could help campaigns
Ryan Hagen, Staff Writer
Posted: 07/13/2011 08:18:09 PM PDT

GRAND TERRACE – In what some are framing as a battle between freedom of speech and freedom of vision, the City Council will decide whether to remove restrictions on the posting of political signs that court rulings indicate could run afoul of the First Amendment.

“This has been an illegal ordinance for a long time,” said Mayor Walt Stanckiewitz of the restrictions.

“I kind of feel like it is my job to keep us from getting sued for stupid things.”

The council voted unanimously Tuesday to hold a meeting to decide the issue, which Stanckiewitz said will take place July 26 or Aug. 9.

Based on court decisions since the original city ordinance was passed, three sections that limit political speech more than commercial speech appear unconstitutional, according to City Attorney John Harper.

The proposed replacement ordinance removes restrictions on how long before an election people may post signs about a candidate or issue, previously limited to 30 days.

It also cuts requirements that signs be placed six feet above grade and issued a permit, because the $50 permit fee poses a potential burden.

Signs still cannot be larger than 16 square feet, cannot block the public right of way or “obstruct visibility,” and must be removed by 10 days after an election.

But they still can be an eyesore, said Doug Wilson, chairman of the Planning Commission, who voted against the proposed changes when they came before that body.

“I don’t think it makes the city a better place,” Wilson said.

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