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Alderman to seek sign law rewrite

Alderman Steve Bernstein says he will seek to have Evanston’s sign ordinance amended to remove possibly unconstitutional restrictions on political signs on private property.

Alderman Steve Bernstein says he will seek to have Evanston’s sign ordinance amended to remove possibly unconstitutional restrictions on political signs on private property.

Bernstein, who Monday night cited the sign ordinance in criticizing the display of campaign signs by mayoral candidates, now says he’s only opposed to having the signs posted on public property, like parks and parkways.

After an Evanston Now story noted that the ordinance, adopted in 1987, appears to conflict with a 1994 U.S. Supreme Court ruling, City of Ladue v. Gilleo, that upheld citizens’ right to display campaign signs in their own homes and yards, Bernstein said he plans to make a reference to the city’s legal department at the council’s next meeting asking it to draft language that would bring the ordinance into compliance with the court ruling.

The current ordinance limits the display of campaign signs to a period from 45 days before until 7 days after an election and effectively limits a resident to having no more than one typically-sized lawn sign on his or her property.

The Evanston ordinance also appears to favor some forms of political speech over others, by not imposing time limits on the display of some political signs — such as those stating a preference about policy issues, like the zoning for a particular parcel of land — while limiting the times when signs supporting a particular candidate or ballot issue may be displayed.

Bernstein, who is not seeking re-election this year after 12 years representing the city’s 4th Ward, also said he’s learned since the meeting that his belief that a city ordinance bars distribution of campaign literature at the Civic Center was in error.

He said he has apologized to mayoral candidate Barnaby Dinges for his effort to stop a Dinges campaign worker from passing out campaign literature outside the City Council Chamber Monday night. Dinges has confirmed receiving from Bernstein an e-mailed note of apology.

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