Judge rules Dolton officials can't remove campaign signs

2013-03-20T15:47:00Z 2013-03-20T18:22:07Z Judge rules Dolton officials can't remove campaign signsGregory Tejeda Times Correspondent nwitimes.com
March 20, 2013 3:47 pm  • 

CHICAGO | A Cook County judge on Wednesday issued a technical restraining order that prevents local officials in Dolton from removing any campaign signs from people's property during the current election cycle.

Judge Paul Karkula spent about a half-hour listening to statements from Dolton Village Attorney Gregory Mitchell and from attorney Keith Spence, who represented village president candidate Valeria Stubbs, before reaching his decision.

Stubbs filed her complaint about the issue at the Daley Center courthouse, saying that Village President Ronnie Lewis has officials go around and remove the campaign signs of his opponents, including the sign Stubbs erected in her own front yard. Mitchell argued on Wednesday that the village is merely enforcing local ordinances concerning sign placement in residential neighborhoods.

Karkula said he believes those ordinances were designed with real estate lawn signs in mind, and also were meant to prevent private businesses from setting up advertising signs in residential neighborhoods.

“I don’t believe this has any bearing on political signs,” Karkula said, while Stubbs smiled and applauded quietly when he issued his ruling.

For his part, Mitchell argued that the village ordinances do not make any distinction between political campaign signs and other types of advertising.

“We’re not stopping campaigns from advertising,” he said. “We’re saying they can’t put up huge signs in residential districts, just like we wouldn’t let anyone else do.”

But Karkula said in issuing his restraining order, which will remain in effect through 7 p.m. April 9, when polling places close, that “political expression trumps aesthetic concerns” that are the motivation for advertising sign restrictions.

TaQuoya Kennedy, a spokeswoman for Dolton government, said municipal officials believe the signs that have been removed in recent days by village code enforcement officers were in violation of village sign ordinances that restrict campaign signs to 9 square feet in size. But she said in a prepared statement that officials will comply with the court order.

“We respect and honor the judge’s ruling and will proceed accordingly,” Kennedy said.

Mitchell, in arguing his case, said Stubbs had some signs as large as 32 square feet, although Stubbs said some of her signs are just smaller than that.

Spence said he sees the issue as one of letting people promote the political candidates of their choice, and he said “irreparable harm” would have occurred had the courts not intervened.

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