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Judge puts a stop to Talent sign law

A mayoral candidate had said the restrictions violated the U.S. Constitution

Jackson County Circuit Judge Lorenzo Mejia has stopped the city of Talent from enforcing an ordinance limiting the number of campaign signs displayed on each lot after a mayoral candidate complained that the ordinance was unconstitutional.

Mayoral candidate Jodi Yap claimed Talent's sign ordinance, which limits campaign signs to one per candidate and ballot measure on any parcel of land, restricted free speech, especially of apartment dwellers. Yap contacted the American Civil Liberties Union office in Eugene recently, and Allen Drescher, an Ashland attorney who works on ACLU cases, prepared her case.

Talent's city attorney, Bill Mansfield, didn't contest the complaint. The city recognizes the flaw in the ordinance, which it adopted in early July, and already has started the process to change it, he said.

The city's previous sign ordinance contained the same limits and hadn't been contested.

Friday, Mejia issued a temporary restraining order that blocks the city from enforcing the campaign sign rule for the next 10 days. Yap and the ACLU will seek an injunction to permanently halt enforcement at a hearing set for Oct. 21.

This case does involve substantial First Amendment rights, Drescher said. It's important to bring this to attention statewide to raise awareness.

Yap said she noticed the sign ordinance's problematic limits in June when she got a draft version as part of an information packet the city provides candidates. She claimed she wasn't notified when the ordinance took effect.

City Administrator Betty Wheeler sent letters to candidates July 12 outlining changes in the sign ordinance. Wheeler said Yap questioned the per-parcel limit and its effect on apartments, but didn't protest the ordinance then.

Yap said she tried to discuss the ordinance with Mayor Marian Telerski in August but was rebuffed. Telerski says Yap did not contact her about the ordinance.

Yap is running against Telerski in the Nov. 5 mayor's race.

Yap voiced concerns about the rule at the city council's Sept. 18 meeting. She said council members acknowledged the problem and said enforcement wouldn't be a priority.

Wheeler said the council was upset and wanted to change the ordinance immediately. However, changes in land-use rules such as the sign ordinance must go through a notification and hearing process before the planning commission and the council. The process, required by state law, takes at least two months, she said.

Yap said she contacted the ACLU as a last resort because the matter was urgent as the election neared.

Telerski said she was glad the problem had come to light so it could be fixed.

An injunction is not a bad idea, she said, adding that it was preferable to the city ignoring its own ordinance and encouraging civil disobedience.

Mansfield said he won't charge the city for the case because he feels responsible for missing the problem in his review of the ordinance. Drescher said he isn't charging a fee and the ACLU will reimburse expenses, so he won't seek to recover costs from the city.

Anita Burke is a free-lance writer living in Talent. E-mail her at