By Mary Ann Thomas
Thursday, April 15, 2010
Wes Thompson of Blawnox doesn't have to think twice about posting political signs in his yard as this year's primary election approaches.
If he wants, he can keep the signs up until November's general election.
The American Civil Liberties Union in Pittsburgh has requested that Blawnox officials remove language from a zoning ordinance prohibiting the posting of political signs on private property no more than 30 days in advance of an election and five days after an election.
In a March 17 letter, ACLU attorney Sara Rose objected to restrictions determining when signs could be posted on private property.
While ordinances governing political signage on public rights-of-way are common, private property is another matter.
"Any restrictions on the amount of time you place a sign on your lawn is a violation of your free speech rights," she said. "We've only asked for changes to time restrictions placed on private property."
Jack Cambest, solicitor for Blawnox, said the borough would amend the ordinance.
Although the ordinance change benefits Thompson, a past candidate for borough council and chairman of the Pennsylvania Constitution party, he is not happy.
In 2007, the borough sued Thompson claiming he violated a zoning ordinance by displaying a campaign sign for presidential candidate Ron Paul more than 30 days before an election.
The civil charge was dismissed, according to District Judge Elissa Lang's staff in Sharpsburg.
"I'm glad they put pressure on the borough," Thompson said of the ACLU. "But I'm disappointed that it took the ACLU to do it.
"My freedom of speech should not be hindered with any unconstitutional ordinance," he said.
Thompson has posted about eight political signs on his property, including one for his own candidacy for Blawnox council in 2011.
"I'll just leave the sign up," he said of his last campaign, "and let them know I'm still trying."