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Moving mannequin sign challenged in DeKalb

Published: Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2013 1:58 p.m. CDT • Updated: Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2013 11:01 p.m. CDT
(David Thomas – dthomas@shawmedia.com)
Meet "Linda" - a mannequin-holding sign stationed outside of Copy Services. The mannequin moves its arms holding the sign, making it illegal to display the city, which has prohibited moving and rotating signs.

DeKALB – “Linda” the mannequin won’t be waving her sign outside Copy Service on Lincoln Highway while the business owner and city leaders discuss whether the moving sign is permitted under city ordinances.

Dave Baker, the city’s 6th Ward alderman and owner of Copy Service, believes his right to have a moving mannequin sign outside his business is protected by the First Amendment. But he has turned off the motor on the mannequin – dubbed Linda by some employees – that rotates the sign in the mannequin’s hands. The sign invites students to sell their books to the store at 1005 W. Lincoln Highway in DeKalb.

Section 3 of DeKalb’s signage code prohibits moving or rotating signs, which are defined as “any sign or other advertising structure which physically moves or rotates in

any manner whatsoever.”

Baker said he thought that the ordinance was designed for large rotating signs that would be found at car dealerships, not the mannequin.

“When arguing over if it’s protected or not, the easiest thing to do is to turn it off and get a permit,” Baker said.

City Manager Mark Biernacki confirmed that Baker had been contacted and would get a permit that would allow him to display the mannequin without any motion as a temporary sign for two weeks. Biernacki said this permit can be obtained up to four times a year.

People or businesses who violate the city’s signage code could pay anywhere between $250 and $500 for each offense, with each day counting as a separate offense. Biernacki said Baker would not be fined because he complied immediately with code enforcers.

“Our motive is compliance first, fine second,” said Biernacki, adding that extenuating circumstances could result in fines first, but this wasn’t one of them.

Baker said he will be researching the issue because he believes the sign is protected by the free speech clause of the First Amendment. He compared it to people who dance along the sides of roads with advertising signs.

“As far as this particular version of sign spinning, I don’t think it can be challenged by any ordinance in any city in the country,” Baker said.

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