Appeals court: Scottsdale cannot ban sign walkers

Scottsdale cannot ban sign walkers from public sidewalks and street corners, the Arizona Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday, siding with a lower-court decision.

In a high-profile battle that pitted Scottsdale against the state, the Court of Appeals threw out the city’s ban, which lasted for 42 years until the city stopped enforcing it last year.

RELATED: Ruling on Scottsdale sign walkers could have wide impact

A state law passed in 2014 prohibits cities from outright barring sign walkers and the court ruled that the city can’t override that. The law does allow cities to adopt regulations for the sign-toting advertisers.

Scottsdale municipal leaders argued that the sign walkers are an eyesore and a distraction to passing motorists.

Opponents, however, argued that the ban is anti-business and violates their constitutional right to free speech.

“Sometimes the little guy can beat City Hall,” said Jim Torgeson, owner of a Mesa-based business that provides sign walkers to businesses. Torgeson joined in the lawsuit to defend the state law.

“Scottsdale was obliterating free speech in trying to manipulate their codes,” he said. “The state of Arizona protects commercial free speech.”

Allhands: Sign walkers aren’t worth the fight

The city’s sign ordinance took effect in 1972, but Scottsdale stopped enforcing its ordinance after the new state law took effect.

The city “tried to extinguish an entire industry and the people who earn their living in an innocent way,” said Clint Bolick, the vice president of litigation for the Goldwater Institute, which represented Torgeson and his business, Sign King, LLC.

Bolick called the court’s decision “the right balance.”

Scottsdale filed suit against the state last year in an attempt to uphold its sign-walker ban. The city’s ordinance has prevented people from carrying or wearing advertising on public streets, including sidewalks.

The city argued the issue was a local, not statewide, concern, and as a charter city with its own rules, Scottsdale should have a right to govern its sidewalks, aesthetics and safety.

PREVIOUSLY: Scottsdale to appeal sign-walker ruling

The Scottsdale City Attorney’s Office is reviewing the court ruling, City Attorney Bruce Washburn said.

The city has several options, including appealing to the Arizona Supreme Court or changing the regulations to abide by the ruling.

In a statement, Washburn said, “Once the review is completed, consideration will be given to whether further review by the Arizona Supreme Court should be sought, or whether the city might be able to amend its regulations to be consistent with the court’s opinion, and consistent with the opinion of the United States Supreme Court in Reed v. Town of Gilbert, and to accomplish the city’s goal of protecting the interests of the citizens.”

In Reed v. Gilbert, the Good News Presbyterian Church sued Gilbert after the town enforced a law banning the church from posting roadside signs the day before its services.

Clyde Reed, a pastor, accused Gilbert of violating his First Amendment rights. The U.S. Supreme Court recently struck down the town’s sign ordinance as unconstitutional.

Reporter Parker Leavitt contributed to this story.

Scottsdale’s sign-walker ordinance

“No person shall have, bear, wear or carry upon any street, any advertising banner, flag, board, sign, transparency, wearing apparel or other device advertising, publicly announcing or calling attention to any goods, wares, merchandise, or commodities, or to any place of business, occupation, show, exhibition, event or entertainment. The provisions of this subsection do not apply to the wearing of apparel without remuneration for doing so or business identification on wearing apparel.”

“Street means all that area dedicated to public use for public street purposes and includes roadways, parkways, alleys and sidewalks.”

Article source: http://www.azcentral.com/story/news/local/scottsdale/2015/06/30/appeals-court-scottsdale-ban-sign-walkers/29523913/