Friday, August 31, 2007

City Requires $50 Deposit To Put Political Sign In Yard

CLERMONT, Fla. -- The city of Clermont has decided to enforce an old code aimed at keeping medians and yards clear of clutter during the election season, but one man says that law is simply un-American.

The presidential election is still over a year away, but one Clermont resident is getting a jump on the competition, already putting signs in his yard supporting his candidate of choice, but that support is coming at a cost.

Bryan Orr was the first to find out that the city of Clermont has recently started enforcing an old code concerning political signage.

"You can't regulate political free speech," Orr said.

That code, which applies only to political signs and not other signs, has been on the books since 1980. Orr's beef is simple.

"You can't say political content has to be regulated, but other types of content aren't regulated," he said.

City hall isn't necessarily being prohibitive, just restrictive. What you have to do is fill out a form and pay $50 as a deposit. As soon as the political season is over, you remove your political sign and go to city hall to get your $50 back.

One local attorney said it may be legal, but it just sounds so un-American.

"Even a non-politically motivated law by the city, if it has the effect of chilling our political speech, it's unconstitutional," said attorney J.J. Dahl.

Orr is picking his battle. Rather than pay a $250, he's removed the signs for now, but said the fight is far from over.

"My free speech is being squelched. And because of that, we are moving forward and I'm going to do everything in my power and then the signs will go right back up," Orr said.

Eyewitness News tried to talk to city administrators, but they refused to go on camera, saying simply that the rule has been on the books for a long time.

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