Say a prayer for Mattressman, seen here waving goodbye to his supporters in the Chicago suburb of McHenry. Russ A. Dewey sends in the sad news that the local city council has voted to reclassify "walking signs" like Verlo Mattress Factory's mascot here, as well as a giant Lady Liberty who pounds the pavement in support of Liberty Tax Service. The costumed mascots are now regulated as roadside nuisances, along with neon and video screens. Local politicians cite a host of protection-from-self concerns, including the possibility of drivers becoming distracted, honking horns from appreciative motorists, and even worries that the high school students who take jobs wearing the foam rubber costumes may become uncomfortable on hot days. Mascots must now stay off the streets.
The issue has the potential (as yet unrealized) to open up a battle between safety regulations and free expression concerns. Reports the Chicago Tribune:
"We think it's a distraction to drivers," said Joseph Napolitano, McHenry director of community development.
But that wave with a giant foam hand, that little dance, may just be protected under the constitutional guarantee of free speech, some experts say.
It might be appropriate to regulate the size and type of signs that businesses use for aesthetic reasons, said DePaul University professor Rodney Blackman, who teaches a 1st Amendment seminar.
"But here we're not talking about aesthetics," he said. "We're talking about expression."
So keep your latticed ass out of Illinois, Mr. Peanut.