So are TIF’s political?

A restaurant owner claims her freedom of speech rights are being violated for political reasons.

August 08, 2013

A small restaurant owner in Belleville, Ill., filed a federal civil rights lawsuit on Monday claiming her city unconstitutionally ordered her to remove a sign from her window that sarcastically thanks city government.

Dianne Rogge, owner of the Pour Haus restaurant, posted a big sign in her business’s front window that read “No TIF for us, Tks B’ville.” Rogge claims that her request for $15,000 in tax increment financing— a form of public financing used to spur economic development—was rejected because she had openly supported Belleville mayor Mark Eckert’s opponent, Phil Elmore. She had hoped to use the TIF money to renovate her business.

City employees sent Rogge letters in June requesting she remove the sign or face a $500-a-day penalty. They cited a city ordinance that requires business owners to get a permit and pay a fee to put up signage. The sign, which has been up since June 5, has racked up more than $31,000 in fines, Rogge told a St. Louis television station.

Rogge’s 20-page complaint, filed in federal court by attorney Eric Rhein, says Belleville’s sign ordinance is unconstitutional and is enforced in a discriminatory fashion. It claims that a former city attorney had posted political signs in his window that the city never forced him to remove. “They have to follow the First Amendment no matter who they are,” Rhein told the Belleville News-Democrat. “It reigns supreme and political signs are afforded the highest amount of protection.”

The lawsuit seeks to prevent the city from enforcing its ordinance, monetary damages to Rogge, attorney’s fees and punitive damages of $50,000, the local paper reported.



7 comments ↓

#1 hornguy on 10.21.13 at 11:15 pm

Municipalities generally have broad authority to regulate business messaging, and in this instance the ordinance being invoked is not related to the content of the speech, at least superficially.

Inconsistent enforcement might make douchecanoes out of those in power, but it’s also likely not going to provide sufficient grounds to prove her case unless she can establish that the inconsistent treatment is willful and deliberate.

There’s probably not much here but hey, this is how first amendment lawyers feed their kids.

#2 l3wis on 10.21.13 at 11:30 pm

I found the story interesting, that’s all. Not sure what to think, but the 1st Amendment is definately a Chia Pet of sorts, sometimes it grows, sometimes it doesn’t, and sometimes when it grows, it doesn’t grow correctly.

#3 hornguy on 10.22.13 at 3:57 am

Indeed. I enjoyed the article. It’s a interesting perspective to consider especially in light of AG Jackoff’s decision to hop onto the argument that businesses can have religious beliefs, and all the post-Citizens United nonsense our political system has been subjected to.
This notion of business-as-individual is one that continues to complicate itself.

#4 Detroit Lewis on 10.22.13 at 9:19 am

I am offended that our AG has decided to fight a holy war. In some cases BC is preventative medicine, some women just can’t afford to get pregnant due to medical issues. You would think an employer would want their workers to be healthy and make healthy choices. Besides, I’m sure just one employee having a baby costs more in insurance money then covering 40 women’s BC. If you are against the use of BC, then don’t use it, but don’t deny your employees access to it because you have some kind of bizarre ‘morals’. Preventing pregnancy IS NOT abortion, it is actually quite the opposite. But when you get your advice on sexuality and reproduction from a book that was written 2000 years ago, what do you expect? I get so sick of the AG wasting our taxdollars on these stupid lawsuits. And the prayer at government functions? Give me a break.

#5 Winston on 10.22.13 at 3:58 pm

Sioux Falls City ordinance 15.57.040.K.3 states that political signs on one’s yard “may be displayed sixty (60) days prior to, and seven (7) days after the election for which they are intended.”

In my opinion, this ordinance is in clear violation of one’s 1st Amendment rights as well. I guess I better dust off my Obama yard sign and stick it out on the lawn to tease the City… With my luck, however, some kids on Halloween will steal it before the City notices it….

#6 rufusx on 10.22.13 at 6:29 pm

Better be sure there are no Obama/Biden bumper stickers on your car while it’s parked in your driveway (part of your yard).

#7 Winston on 10.22.13 at 9:41 pm

What about the sticker I have on my abandoned car along the side of my house with the tarp cover lapping in the wind?…. Have I broke two ordinances now?…. It is covered…..

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