CHICAGO - The Chicago Department of Buildings has issued a "Notice of Violation and Summons" to the building that houses the Chicago Republican Party over a sign the party erected earlier this year. The notice raises a serious question of First Amendment rights.
The sign, which simply reads "Chicago Republican Party, Chris Cleveland, Chairman" was found to be in violation of a Chicago ordinance that requires that a business first seek permission from the City to display a sign. Such permits, which are normally obtained through sign companies, typically cost $475 including fees and take up to three months to issue.
"What the City doesn't understand is that numerous court decisions prohibit them from regulating political speech in the same way that they regulate commercial speech," said Cleveland. "And a sign announcing that we exist is pretty much the definition of political speech."
"Besides, if we'd waited three months, we would have missed the primary season, when we needed the sign to attract volunteers," added Cleveland.
"I'm not going to ask anyone's permission to put up a political sign on private property," said Cleveland. "I refuse to apply for a permit."
It isn't clear who filed the complaint with the City over the sign.
There are other signs in the vicinity which lack permits, so it appears that the Republican Party's sign was singled out.
There is no allegation that the sign violates any rule other than the one that requires a permit. The sign itself is an unlit, lightweight vinyl banner attached to the side of the building.