DeKALB – Alderman Dave Baker believes the First Amendment allows him to have a moving mannequin advertising his store in public, and he’s hoping the City Council sees it his way.
“If a person were to put a signboard around them or carry a sign, that’s free speech,” Baker said. “There shouldn’t be anything they can touch on that, that’s free speech.”
In its last meeting before Tuesday’s election, the council will discuss changing the city’s sign code so Baker, of the 6th Ward, can place an automated mannequin outside of his business. The meeting starts at 6 p.m. today at City Hall, 200 S. Fourth St.
For a time, a mannequin named “Linda” advertised book buyback services outside Copy Service at 1005 W. Lincoln Highway in DeKalb, which Baker owns. Baker believes DeKalb’s sign code, which prohibits moving or rotating signs of any kind, is unconstitutional and unreasonable.
After the issue surfaced in January, Baker turned off the motor that caused the sign to rotate and said he’d pursue a temporary permit.
“She’s just standing there holding a sign that goes into a circular pattern, instead of random jumping around,” said Baker, referring to businesses that will sometimes have employees dancing outside with advertising signs.
City Manager Mark Biernacki said he believes dancing sign-holders also would be considered illegal under the city’s sign laws. Currently, the city staff is not recommending changing the rules to account for moving signs of any kind.
“I think there’s a public purpose served in prohibiting moving signs because they do create a distraction, hence our recommendation,” Biernacki said. “If the council feels otherwise, we’ll attempt some legislation.”
Both Baker and Biernacki said Baker would not be able to discuss the issue as an alderman or vote on it. However, Baker said he would continue to use his rights as a citizen to keep talking about it.
Baker does not have an opponent in Tuesday’s election.