Civil Discourse Now

Where the far left and far right overlap for fun and enlightenment

SPECIAL EDITION OF "CIVIL DISCOURSE NOW"---3:30 p.m. today (2/2/12) at the Red Lion with signs and everything!

   Red Lion Grog House is located at 1043 Virginia Avenue, in Fountain Square. Red Lion has set a sandwich board outside its front entrance for over two years. Last Friday evening, an individual from City Code Enforcement advised the proprietor that the sign was in violation of an ordinance, adopted in August by The City of Consolidated Indianapolis and Marion County, through the City Council and the Mayor, to cater (more accurately kow-tow) to the NFL®. The ordinance was passed to assuage concerns of the NFL®—btw, a not-for-profit corporation organized under 501(c)(6) of the Internal Revenue Code—about such things as local businesses trying to make money off of special events, like the—I think we are supposed to call it "Big Game,"®  but that is trademarked, so I will call it what it is: the Super Bowl®. (This is considered "fair usage" under copyright law because I am discussing the matter in regard to political issues.) Anyway, the gentleman said the sign was okay until after the Super Bowl® and left. On Saturday, that same city employee reappeared, with a fellow city employee, and confiscated the sign. The same individuals have confiscated several signs of Fountain Square businesses.

   The area around Fountain Square has been declared a "Celebration Zone." In such zones, "temporary signs," defined as signs set up within thirty (30) days of the special event must receive a license, pay a fee, and obtain approval for content of the sign. HOLD IT! There is what is called a "grandfather clause" in the ordinance: "Existing, permanent signs and outdoor advertising signs are not subject to these requirements." ("Super Celebration Sites/DCE Enforcement Packet, p. 15; emphasis in original.)  So the Red Lion’s sandwich board is not subject to the City’s Super ordinance.

   This not only is the United States. This is a quaint part of it called "Indiana." The First Amendment to the United States Constitution reads, in relevant part:

  "Congress shall make no law ... abridging the freedom of speech..."

Article I, sec. 9 of the Indiana Constitution (Article I is our State’s Bill of Rights) reads:

  "No law shall be passed, restraining the free interchange of thought and opinion, or restricting the right to speak, write, or print, freely on any subject whatever: but for the abuse of that right, every person shall be responsible."

There are no asterisks or footnotes either to the First Amendment or Article I, §9 that make exceptions for the Super Bowl.®  To require application for display of a sign constitutes restrain on free speech. To require payment of a fee means the speech no longer is free.

   There are time and place restrictions that have been upheld by the United States Supreme Court. Such restrictions are few and strictly construed. Commercial speech is protected by the First Amendment. The highest form of protected speech is political speech. A person has the most fundamental right to express himself or herself about government action or inaction.

   Finally, a city official cannot simply walk up and confiscate a sandwich board without what is called (sorry about the upper-case letters, but they are necessary) DUE PROCESS OF LAW. A court decides whether one loses life, liberty or property.

   Today, we do a Special Edition at the Red Lion, 1043 Virginia Avenue, at 3:30 p.m. to discuss the ordinance in question. We shall be equipped with signs—SIGNS. And, I would add, they are TEMPORARY signs. They are, however, exempt from Code Enforcement. As taxpayers, we shall pay for this Super Bowl® for years to come (as we continue to pay for The Hoosier Dome®, although it no longer is here). We might as well have some fun and tweak the bureaucratic noses of The Consolidated City of Indianapolis and Marion County. Please join us and watch your constitutions in action!

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Comment by Kurt Lorey on February 1, 2012 at 9:05am

I'd show up, if I didn't work out of town. But, just a thought...see the Muni Code, Article IV, Sec. 986-401 (a), "...Department shall have the authority to seize and impound any and all tangible property related to non-licensed activity occurring during a civic sponsored special event."


Kinda sounds like it's "legal" to impound the Red Lion's sign. May not be constitutional,...but you'd have to argue that in court.


Do you know the Midtown Grille? They are having a private event tonight that I would wonder if they licensed signage for. Since it's a private event, perhaps they didn't, but if they did, much hilarity might ensue. I would mention the details, but it is NOT very politically correct. No, not at all.


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