Planning panel deserves thanks for sign ordinance work

After 10 drafts, the Little Falls City Council has finally scheduled a public hearing Monday on its proposed new sign ordinance.

Since signage is everywhere in today’s world, this was a monumental task to undertake. However, it was necessary because selective enforcement of the existing law infringed upon the First Amendment rights of a city resident.

We believe that the city has undertaken a good faith attempt to address that issue with plenty of help from the legal profession.

Parts of the latest draft will not sit well with many residents. Among these are the prohibition of off-premise signage, which has become custom to use for such events as garage sales, auctions and fundraising meals by charitable organizations.

We believe that city officials made a good faith attempt to find a way to  keep from eliminating those signs, but the lawyers have told them that everyone needs to be treated the same.

If an event, for example, were a one-day affair, could not a sign be posted three days in advance and taken down one day after? Not unless other kinds of events, from established businesses holding their own sales events, to political organizations holding rallies or conventions, are allowed the same access. We remain unconvinced that such limits are unconstitutional, but the lawyers are saying, “no.”

One thing in the ordinance that we are certain needs to be changed is the prohibition on posting political lawn signs before Aug. 1. Minnesota Statute 211B.045 states that election lawn signs are allowed from 46 days before the primary election (This year, that date was June 30) until 10 days after the general election.

The key to the ordinance’s success will be the city’s ability to enforce it uniformly. Undoubtedly, some will test that ability, and we would encourage city officials to make no exceptions in enforcing the law. We encourage all to obey the new ordinance.

No Constitutional right is absolute, but all such rights are fundamental to freedom and the system of self-government that we all enjoy.  The rule of law must maintain precedence over the rule of humans, if we are to keep from degenerating into mob rule.

The Little Falls Planning Commission is deserving of thanks for undertaking this task. The end result will be better for all.

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