Town drops sign rules after House minority leader objects
LUTHERSVILLE, Ga. (AP) — A west Georgia town says it will stop enforcing its sign ordinance after the state House minority leader complained that it discriminated against the content of his election signs by violating the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
The Newnan Times-Herald reports that Democratic Rep. Bob Trammell challenged the sign ordinance in the Meriwether County town of Luthersville, where he lives.
The ordinance stated that political signs couldn’t be put up until 30 days before an election and must be taken down 10 days after the election.
The town said Trammell was violating the ordinance by leaving his political signs up on his and his mother’s property after the June 9 primary, when Trammell won the Democratic nomination for a House District 132, which includes parts of Meriwether, Coweta and Troup counties. Republican have targeted Trammell for defeat this November.
An attorney for Trammell and his mother, Menlia Trammell, sent a letter to the city demanding that enforcement of the sign ordinance be immediately suspended.
According to the letter from attorney Sarah Brewerton-Palmer, the U.S. Supreme Court has struck down sign ordinances similar to Luthersville’s. The court has ruled against “content based” restrictions on signs because they treat different signs differently because of the message they convey.
“After reviewing our letter, the city has agreed that the ordinance violates the First Amendment,” Brewerton-Palmer wrote in an email. “The city will not enforce the ordinance any further and will be discussing whether to rescind or revise the ordinance at the next City Council meeting.”
Luthersville’s ordinance lists types kinds of signs that don’t require a permit, including political signs, construction signs and home improvement signs, but sets rules on when they can be put up and when they must be removed.
The letter claims the city removed a sign posted on the Trammells’ bed-and-breakfast property without notification.
Mayor Don Cuttie said that the city hasn’t removed any signs itself, but has asked that they be removed. “Most of the people did oblige,” he said.
The ordinance has been in place since 2001, during the long span when Trammell’s late father, Bob Trammell, Sr., was Luthersville’s mayor.
The city has last revised the ordinance in March, said Cuttie, who became mayor in January. The city’s ordinance has been enforced for signs of all political parties, Cuttie said, and property owners have been told to remove signs for Trammell’s Republican opponent David Jenkins and President Donald Trump.