AUGUST 26, 2015

Goldwater Institute asks Oro Valley to stop restrictions on “sign walkers”

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PHOENIX – On Thursday, August 20 the Goldwater Institute sent a letter asking the mayor, council and town attorney of Oro Valley, Ariz., to stop enforcing its illegal restrictions on “sign walkers”—people who carry signs to advertise local businesses—and to revise its town ordinance to be in compliance with Arizona law and the U.S. and Arizona constitutions.

Oro Valley requires companies who want to use sign walkers to get a permit, but they are only allowed to get a permit to use a sign walker for three days and the business must reapply for permits every 90 days. If a business doesn’t get a permit, or wants to use a sign walker for four days, not three, they face fines and jail time. Meanwhile, a sign walker holding a sign with a noncommercial message faces no restrictions whatsoever. The Goldwater Institute letter explains why this restriction is a violation of Arizona state law and constitutional rights. 

In June, the Arizona Court of Appeals struck down a City of Scottsdale ordinance banning sign walkers, saying that it conflicted with a state law allowing sign walkers to operate, and that overly restrictive regulations violated constitutional rights. The City of Scottsdale has decided not to appeal, so the Appeals Court decision is binding on all other communities. 

The Goldwater Institute supports allowing cities to pass regulations ensuring sign walkers maintain safe practices for themselves, pedestrians, and drivers, but says that making it impossible or nearly impossible for sign walkers to do business goes too far. “The Court of Appeals said that cities can reasonably regulate sign walkers, but cannot ban them. That’s the right balance,” said Jared Blanchard, an attorney with the Goldwater Institute’s Scharf-Norton Center for Constitutional Litigation.

Oro Valley has attempted to block the same sign-walker company that the Goldwater Institute represented in its successful case against Scottsdale—Sign King, LLC—from using its public sidewalks to advertise local businesses.

“Oro Valley needs to come into compliance with state law and the U.S. and Arizona Constitutions,” said Blanchard. “We’re happy to work with them to revise their ordinance so that it respects the right of a legal business to exist and keeps town residents safe.”

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