Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Reminder About Posting Signs On Public Property

Recently Uptown United sent out a notice, excerpted below:

1400 block of Winnemac, today
"TO:   All Aldermanic Candidates in the 46th & 48th Wards; All Candidates for Citywide Offices

Dear Candidates:

With the February 22nd municipal elections drawing closer, the campaigns are heating up. We are already seeing the results of volunteers through posters, yard signs, leaflets, and the like.

In accordance with the Municipal Code of Chicago (see Chapter 10-8, Use of Public Ways and Spaces, 10-8-320, Posting bills), during last November's election season, we worked hard to remove campaign signs, etc. that were illegally placed on public property within SSA#34. As a result, Uptown's commercial streets were kept free of the litter that lingers beyond election day in other communities.

Over the last week or so, we have just started to see exuberant posting of aldermanic and city-wide campaign signs on public property and on vacant private ground floor commercial spaces.

Going forward, any and all candidate signage placed within SSA#34 on public property or placed on private property without owner/lessee permission will be removed by representatives of Cleanslate or myself.

After Cleanslate's Sunday February 20th shift, we will let stand any signs placed on the public way until Wednesday, February 23rd, the day after voting.  After that date, all signs will again be removed.

Please share the information in this letter with your staff and volunteers."


  1. Today I took down over 20 Molly Phelan signs in the parkway within a two block radius.

    I've got better things to do with my time Molly.

  2. Read the whole ordinance it's for COMMERCIAL ADVERTISING only.

    Those campaign signs are basically protected political speech. That's why they are never included in posting on the public way restrictions other than those connected to electioneering within 100 feet of polling places (which incidentally I found one candidate's staff blatantly flouting this AM outside the Truman early voting location).

    Anybody taking down political signs on the public way for any candidate in reliance on the Uptown United PSA or on that ordinance is badly mistaken. I would also cynically believe they have an axe to grind with every candidate that isn't there candidate.

    With many board members very closely tied to a few other candidates, I don't know what Uptown United is thinking sending that out. Maybe they are driven by wholesome intentions but easy as hell for another candidate to crucify them if you're caught tampering with candidate signs 7 days before an election.

    If you think you see illegally posted signs or any other shenanigans with lawfully posted signs play it safe and call the Board of Elections complaint hotline at 312-269-7870.

  3. The 1984 U.S. Supreme Court decision in City Council v. Taxpayers for Vincent upheld a Los Angeles ordinance which prohibited the posting of signs, including political campaign posters, on city-owned property, including public utility poles.

    However, Joe is 100% accurate that the section of the Chicago Municipal Code, 10-8-320, cited by Uptown United, applies to commercial interests only and is not applicable to political signage.

    Yet the city itself has cited this section of the code in previous attempts to restrict the posting of political signs on public property.

    Perhaps it shouldn't surprise us that our Muncipal Code is defective and misapplied by the City.

    Even if the Code properly prohibited political signage, the removal of that signage is not necessarily legal, according to a "professionally researched" answer on answerbag:

    "Even if posting political signs in the right-of-way is illegal in your area, removing the signs can lead to theft charges."

    FACEBOOK PAGE beware!

  4. FP,

    where the hell did you see twenty Molly Phelan signs?

    I can walk for blocks and not see twenty signs for ALL the candidates combined. The exception being on commercial streets.

    As long as the signs disappear post election it's not that big a deal. At least signs are better than stickers. There is a lamppost in Lincoln Park with a Byrne for Mayor sticker from 1983.

  5. FACEBOOK PAGE - no one told you to take down her signs. Obviously you aren't a Phelan supporter and only did it out of spite! You chose to waste your own time. While I don't support all candidates I don't see it as my job to take down their signs. If you think they are illegally posted then contack 311 or the Board of Elections. Tearing down others signs is tantamount to vandalism. Get over yourself and keep your hands to yourself.

  6. Legally, in Chicago, posting signs on public property is littering.

    Unless picking up litter is illegal, someone removing signs isn't violating anything.

    You can talk about how the Los Angeles City Council acted, or quote a "professionally researched" answer, but we need to focus on Chicago and its laws.

    BTW, I was threatened with a fine a couple years ago for posting notices of our block party on light poles. I didn't know it was wrong or illegal. Now I do.

  7. @ Sign removal

    I called 311 and was told to remove signs as I was told "they are illegal to post". Regardless of who I support, I would take down the signs.

    Also spoke with Molly's staff and they agreed to take them down. The said they had an over zealous volunteer.

    Looking forward to a better Uptown no matter who wins!

  8. What's "legal" or "illegal" in Chicago is determined by the Municipal Code. Someone threatening to fine you is not evidence you've committed an illegal act. Learn the law and don't let yourself be bullied. Unless you can cite the law stating that "posting signs on public property is littering", I'll choose to rely on my own research.

  9. Mike,

    I admire your legal analysis. Very clear and to the point. Thank you.

  10. The photo is actually two violations. It is illegal to attach anything to a tree in the public way.

  11. The photo on the story shoed two violatons. It is illegal to attach anything to a tree on the public way. Bottom Line.. itt's littering, tacky and shows desperation on the candidate's part.

    And Joe, I remove every on the public way, regardless of candidate. Theft charges? On the public way? Please.

  12. Those signs were also accompanied by door to door visits by the candidate and at least one zealous volunteer...the placement of the signs was certainly strategic

  13. Nice to see willful ignorance on the part of the sign grabbers. I actually looked in the municipal code again this morning (it's free online at and the only tree based restriction I could find was in the same ordinance that Uptown United is still erroneously relying on, and again that only applies to commercial advertising.

    Relying on 311 as a legal authority is... a creative use of the city resources.

    Of course nobody is probably ever going to get arrested for removing candidate signs (at least not in Chicago) but there is a long and proud Chicago tradition of sleazy Machine tactics for doing exactly that. I will continue to believe that anyone pulling signs now is acting as a partisan for their candidate and not an altruistic anti-litter warrior.

    Plus John if you feel that strongly about litter get your butt over to the 800 - 1100 block of Wilson every morning. Despite grabbing what I can on my way to work and the best efforts of Clean Slate it's a mess almost every morning anyway.

    Sincerely yours in the unfettered expression of protected political speech.

  14. Do candidates really think all the litter will help them win? Light poles? trees? car windshields? (also illegal).

  15. Of course nobody is probably ever going to get arrested for removing candidate signs (at least not in Chicago) but there is a long and proud Chicago tradition of sleazy Machine tactics for doing exactly that. - Joe

    Joe, the long and proud Chicago tradition of sleazy Machine tactics includes ignoring the law about where campaign posters are allowed to be placed. Sorry but you can't have it both ways.

  16. Maybe nobody will get arrested, but I can see somebody getting the shite beaten out of them.