Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Democracy is messy

The New York Times had an interesting editorial in yesterday's edition. It concerns county and city ordinances restricting the placement of campaign signs on lawns. See the article here.

I sent a letter to the editor today concerning their editorial. I applaud the New York Times for drawing attention to these noxious ordinances, but perhaps a greater threat to our constitutional freedoms are the condominium and home owners associations we join when we buy property. In many instances, these associations have covenants and bylaws curtailing, and some instances banning, the placement of signs--political and otherwise. While constitutionally permissible (the association is a private association and individuals are not compelled to join them), these sign bans are troubling. Many Americans sign away their rights without knowing it, but worse, it curtails political speech--the type of speech most cherished by the Founders and receiving the most protection from the courts. These restrictions are often defended as a way to protection home owner investment and the value of their home. I know of no empirical evidence or study that suggests that campaign signs undercuts the real estate value of a home. Besides, shouldn't we care more about the freedom to speak our mind and engage in the democratic process than whether we gain or lose $100 off the value of our home?

For example, here's language from my townhouse association documents here in Bozeman:

I urge you to check out the bylaws for your association and consider mounting an effort to protect political speech in our communities. Two years ago, to protest our ridiculous sign restrictions, I put signs for both the Democratic and Republican congressional candidates on my lawn. Strike a blow for freedom: plaster your lawn with campaign signs come this fall.

1 comment:

Caitlin Worm said...

STILL having trouble putting signs in your yard???!