Saturday, October 02, 2010

Augusta County and freedom of speech

Maybe you've seen the tractor-trailers parked on private property adjoining the interstates with the message to vote out all (most) incumbents? They have been spotted on I-64 East between Staunton and Waynesboro, on I-81 North in Verona, and on I-81 North in Harrisonburg.

The Staunton News Leader saw them and in an article, Anti-incumbent signs on highway might flout county rules, we learn that Augusta County officials are looking into banning those tractors, saying ordinances in place call them billboards.


I kind of liked the message that was sent on I-81 to those heading south toward Democrat Rick Boucher's territory in the 9th District ... and on I-64 as folks headed toward Democrat Tom Perriello's stomping grounds in the 5th District. Vote out those Democrats!

But according to the News Leader, Augusta County has an issue with the trailers:
What also isn't clear is whether or not the messages comply with local sign laws.

Both banners hang on semi trailers without tractors present, and neither seems to meet Augusta County's criteria for political signs. A county administrator said the county attorney is looking into the matter.

One message faces eastbound traffic on I-64 in the Fishersville area and reads, "Congress: Represent the American People or Go Home!" The other faces northbound traffic on I-81 in Mount Sidney. It states "Congress, You Have Failed Us." Both conclude with, "Vote Out All Incumbents," with the word "all" struck through in red with "most."
So why would Augusta County have an issue with the "signs"? Well ...
... the county prohibits signs "placed on vehicles or trailers which are parked or located for the primary purpose of using the vehicle or trailer as a sign."

Explaining the ordinance, Zoning Administrator John Wilkinson gave as an example buying a truck or a semi, painting your business name on it and parking it in front of your house.

"If it's not driveable, then it's a sign," Wilkinson said.

The county gave no word, as of yesterday, about whether county attorney Patrick Morgan had made a decision about the anti-incumbent signs.
So is it a matter of free speech? Or are bureaucrats just doing their jobs? Check out the entire article at the NL complete with photo of the "sign" in question and judge for yourself.

UPDATE: Bob over at The Journey reminds us of a "non-moveable" sign during last year's gubernatorial race located in the Sherando area of Augusta County....

1 comment:

Bob K. said...

During the 2004 election a trailer appeared on the Westbound side of interstate 64 -- a flatbed with a large Kerry sign mounted on it, sitting in an old orchard. The news media did not seem to have any problem with it then.

Also, there was the septic tank sign across from the entrance to Sherando lake. It stumped for Obama and then Creigh Deeds. It was a concrete box, clearly not driveable! Again, the media had no problem.