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Vote directs city staff to study signs

Published: Tuesday, April 9, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT
(David Thomas –
Meet "Linda" – a mannequin-holding sign stationed outside of Copy Services. The mannequin moves its arms holding the sign.

DeKALB – Linda the mannequin came to Monday’s City Council meeting with a moving sign advocating for a more lenient local sign ordinance.

Specifically, she asked passers-by to fight for her First Amendment rights.

Sixth Ward Alderman David Baker brought the mannequin, named Linda, to Monday’s meeting after posing her for a time outside his business, Copy Services, 1005 W. Lincoln Highway, in DeKalb. In January, city leaders told him the motorized mannequin’s moving sign could not stay there permanently under current city sign rules.

Linda, her stoic expression and her bright yellow sign may have made their point, though.

The DeKalb City Council voted unanimously Monday to direct city staff to study signs that use movement to advertise to nearby drivers and pedestrians. Currently, people can get permits to display those signs on a temporary basis. At least three new council members will be seated after today’s election.

Derek Hiland, the city’s principal planner, said the Plan Commission will review moving signs – whether they are operated by people or machines – and possibly bring a proposal to the council in May.

Baker recused himself from the deliberations and voting. He said he did not intend for his proposal to apply to all moving signs, just signs like his.

“I would hope that the whole ordinance isn’t at stake, because I believe in not allowing the electronic moving of signs,” Baker said. He added that he preferred the City Council handle this matter, not the Plan Commission.

Other aldermen also expressed concern about people waving around signs to advertise for business.

“I think we need to take a look at it because there are a lot of people doing this,” said 7th Ward Alderwoman Monica O’Leary.

Third Ward Alderwoman Kristen Lash was curious as to how car wash fundraisers would fall under this, as people advertise those by waving signs to traffic. City Attorney Dean Frieders said after the meeting that there is discretion in sign enforcement.

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