MADISON – The WMC Litigation Center – an affiliate of Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce (WMC), the combined state chamber of commerce and manufacturers’ association – last week filed a lawsuit against the City of Neenah, asserting that the city’s sign ordinance violates the First Amendment right to free speech in several ways.
Neenah’s ordinance prohibits signs that advertise off-premises businesses and commercial advertising on parked vehicles, among other restrictions. It also imposes time-related restrictions for certain signs. For example, while it allows a person to advertise an in-home business with a yard sign, the sign would need to be removed after 30 days. A “Support Our Troops” yard sign would also need to be removed after 30 days, while “No Trespassing” or “Parking in Rear” yard signs may remain up forever. The ordinance would also prohibit a plumber from parking his work van in his driveway if his van was visible from a street and advertised his plumbing company.
“The City of Neenah’s sign ordinance is anti-business,” said Scott Rosenow, Executive Director of the WMC Litigation Center. “Neenah is violating the basic First Amendment right to free speech, which includes commercial speech,” Rosenow continued. “Signs are a relatively inexpensive form of advertising that small businesses depend on, especially if many of their customers are local. This ordinance virtually bans commercial advertising via signs within the city, which is a slap in the face to small-business owners. Neenah residents have a right to free speech, including a right to express themselves and advertise their businesses with yard signs. We filed this lawsuit to hold the city government accountable for its blatant overreach and to prevent the city from wasting taxpayer money enforcing this clearly unconstitutional ordinance.”
The WMC Litigation Center’s clients, local residents and taxpayers, claim the ordinance is unconstitutional since it prohibits their right to free speech as protected by the First Amendment.