The Supreme Court case cited by both the Town of Normal and a person on Koos’ Facebook page does not apply. It was about signs on PUBLIC PROPERTY and had nothing to do with signs on private property:
In 2005, Gilbert, Arizona adopted a municipal sign ordinance that regulated the manner in which signs could be displayed in public areas.
Mayor Koos is asking for comments on Facebook. Mayor – either laws apply equally to all signs or the law needs changed. Period. Using “feelings” to decide what laws get enforced mean laws are immaterial and depend purely on who is in charge at the time. Think Banana Republic.
Signs and Sign Municipal Code
The Town of Normal has a robust section covering its Municipal Code and in particular Sign Regulations – https://www.normal.org/101/Municipal-Code (see Division 13 – Sign Regulations). Note that one of the first sections of Division 13 states:
SEC. 15.13-3 GENERAL PROHIBITION. Any sign not expressly permitted by this Code is prohibited in the Town of Normal. So anything not stated or expressed in their code is NOT permitted!
Under the definitions section you will find the following definitions:
POLITICAL SIGN. A temporary sign intended to advance a political statement, cause or candidate for office. A legally permitted outdoor advertising sign shall not be considered to be a political sign.
TEMPORARY SIGN. A sign intended to display either commercial or noncommercial messages of a transitory or temporary nature. Portable signs or any sign not permanently embedded in the ground, or not permanently o a building or sign structure that is permanently embedded in the ground, are considered temporary signs.
Under the following section (SEC.15.13-7 EXEMPT SIGNS.) are listed 2 sections of interest copied below:
Temporary Political Campaign Signs. Temporary political campaign signs may be erected and maintained within the boundaries of private property only and shall not extend over or into the public right-of-way. All such signs shall be removed within fourteen (14) days following the date of the election to which the signs pertain.
Issue of General Public Interest Sign. Any sign which depicts an issue of general public interest and/or personal beliefs and views to same may be erected and maintained within the boundaries of private property only and shall not exceed over or into the public right-of-way. Such sign is to be removed within fourteen (14) days after the public interest in question has transpired or been finalized by court or other governmental mandate.
Shortly after the election (about 10 days) a neighbor who had several political signs in his yard (all legally displayed) removed all but one of them and placed that one next to his mailbox in the public right of way. I told him he would need to remove that sign as it was not legal to post in the right of way and the time was quickly approaching for him to remove his sign, 14 days after the election. He did move his sign to his private property, but told me he would not remove his sign. It is still there.
I contacted the Town of Normal and asked them for clarification on whether this sign was legal or not. I sent a picture of it to them. I was working with Jason Querciagrossa from their legal staff https://www.normal.org/directory.aspx?eid=3. I expressed my understanding of the sign code and expressly asked if this sign was not legal per the town’s code. Jason told me he would get back to me as he needed to consult with others. After a few calls to him and waiting almost a week, I finally got an answer that staff felt it was legal based on a 2015 US Supreme Court ruling, Reed v Town of Gilbert, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reed_v._Town_of_Gilbert. Not legal based on the Town’s code mind you as I had previously discussed the sections copied above that speak to this sign being legal based on existing code.
This case was decided to provide equal footing for content as religious content was not given equal consideration to Reed by the Town of Gilbert.
Nearly every town has rules regarding political and cause signs and every one I have seen also has some time restriction related to when the signs can be displayed. Date boundaries for display and take down is very common although some just have code related to take down dates like the Town of Normal.
I have also contacted Pam Reece, https://www.normal.org/directory.aspx?EID=63, and heard from her after explaining what the Town’s code states, what Jason Querciagrossa had opined as the legal department’s opinion and asked her whether changes were needed to the code in order to make this sign legal. I called and asked for an update from her after sending her some additional information including a picture of the sign as she said she could not read the content she replied and I quote:
“That sign is currently located in a judge’s front yard in addition to many other front yard around town.”
Keep in mind that Jason Querciagrossa already had a picture, I had thoroughly described it to her and Jason. So they must not have been communicating very well internally even though both knew I was talking to the other.
Last Thursday, 5/9/2019, I replied to Pam’s quote above asking the following:
“What makes the sign legal based on your code?” and “Tell me what section of your code allows it to be displayed now?” and “Ask this judge or your legal team the same questions.” and “Or do you need to change your code to make them legal?” I concluded with “Not a hard concept. Follow the law. Please advise what you plan on doing.”
On 5/15/2019 I talked directly with Jason Querciagrossa and he said the town’s stance on this sign had not changed per our earlier conversation regarding Reed v Town of Gilbert. I left a message with Pam Reece and still have not heard back from her regarding the questions I posed above, which my voice mail asked her to address.
To wrap up. For over a month, Town of Normal staff has been aware that their sign code does not legally allow political or cause signs to be displayed 14 days after an election. Only because I have followed up after initial contacts, have either Jason or Pam responded to me. Jason telling me of a 2015 Supreme Court ruling that either does not apply or makes town code require changes. Pam telling me the signs are in a judge’s yard and in many yards in town. She has not answered whether or not they are legal or if changes need to be made to town code.
Copies of this letter have been sent to all council members, Mayor Koos, Pam Reece and Jason Querciagrossa. Although both Stan Nord and Kathryn Smith are still not listed on the Town of Normal website, Pam did provide those to me on 4/29/2019. They have been sworn in for over 15 days now. I wonder why it is taking so long to update the site with newly elected council members? RC McBride is no longer listed, but he does appear in the group picture. (The website has been partially updated since)
The State of Illinois passed legislation making Illinois a sanctuary state (whatever that means). While that legislation was being discussed, these signs were legal. That was passed well over a year ago. So why are they still being displayed and is it legal in the Town of Normal?
What sign is being questioned?
Are preferred signs given special privileges?