Tuesday, October 15, 2002

Sign me up

It's been more than three months now since city officials admitted that a law on our books is unconstitutional.

A story on July 10 detailed a federal ruling that a political sign law in New Paltz was unconstitutional.

This reporter noted the New Paltz law's similarity to our own and made some phone calls, including one to the mayor.

"Everyone's quite aware that it's unconstitutional," Mayor Thomas C. Sullivan told me.

So why don't we fix it?

In the three-plus months since that story ran, nobody tried to fix it. It hasn't come up once in the hallowed halls of City Hall.

You need a written invitation?

Here it is.

Since no one has proposed to amend this unconstitutional law, I will propose it, and ask only that a city alderman sponsor my proposed resolution before the Common Council. I'll even write it in legalese.

Whereas, it has been determined that Chapter 153, Article I of the city code (Political Advertising) does not meet federal constitutional requirements relating to free speech, and

Whereas, the election season is in full swing, and

Whereas, city residents should be allowed and encouraged to express their opinions, now, therefore, be it

Resolved, that the wording of Chapter 153, Article I of the city code (Political Advertising) be stricken and replaced with the following:

Political banners, posters, placards and other political advertising of any type shall be allowed to be placed on personal and private property no sooner than 14 days prior to the primary, general or special election in which that candidate(s) or issue(s) are being voted upon and must be removed no later than 7 days following the primary, general or special election in which that candidate(s) or issue(s) are being voted upon. Political banners, posters, placards and other political advertising may not be placed in the city right of way or on any city or public property including but not limited to lampposts, hydrants, street signs, wires, cables, monuments, statues, bridges and railings of the City of Lockport, New York.

Further be it resolved, that the amendment take effect immediately upon its passage by a majority vote of the Common Council.

OK, so I've done (apparently) the hard part. Now if someone can take up my resolution, I'd appreciate it.

There is also a penalties portion of the sign law Chapter 153, Article II (Penalties for offense) of the law that offers a fine a $250 or imprisonment of 15 days for those who fail to comply. That I'm fine with.

You may ask why I care. There are a few reasons.

First and foremost, I can't stand the fact that it could be illegal to express your political opinion on your own private property because of a stupid illegal law (that sounds so funny).

Second, having a law on the books that city officials acknowledge is unconstitutional makes all other laws suspect, in my opinion. It's similar to guilt by association, I suppose.

Finally, it's fun to point out to follies of elected officials. It's even more fun when you can fix it.

By the way, if you agree with me, call your alder(wo)man. His (her) number is:

  • Mayor Thomas Sullivan: 433-6510
  • 1st Ward Alderman Scott Elliott: 433-0722
  • 2nd Ward Alderwoman Phyllis Green: 434-3406
  • 3rd Ward Alderman Scott Cercone: 439-4012
  • 4th Ward Alderman Patrick Schrader: 434-4957
  • 5th Ward Alderman David Blackley: 433-9573
  • Alderman-at-large Joe Kibler: 434-8673