Eminent Domain

Would 'I ? the Redevelopment Authority' Get the Same Treatment?

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On Wednesday the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit pondered the question of whether the First Amendment allows the city of St. Louis to ban a mural condemning eminent domain abuse. Technically, the mural, which landlord Jim Roos painted on the side of one of his buildings, urges us not to "End Eminent Domain Abuse." But no one seems to be confused about the message that Roos—who has repeatedly tangled with the local redevelopment authority over its broad understanding of "blight"—meant to send. The city insists that it objects not to the sign's political content but to its size (more than 30 square feet), its location (on a the side of the building instead of the front), and its lack of redeeming artistic value (which would have exempted it from the sign rules). In March a federal judge sided with the city. Michael Bindas, the Institute for Justice attorney who is representing Roos, says the city's content-based sign restrictions violate the First Amendment:

Giving government bureaucrats the power to decide which speech is acceptable turns the First Amendment on its head. Unfortunately, that is exactly what can happen under local government "sign code" regulations restricting or eliminating outdoor communications. And it is happening in St. Louis, where the city government is trying to censor a sign protesting the abuse of eminent domain by—who else?—the city of St. Louis.

Radley Balko noted the case in March. Meeting with Cleveland's city council last year, Drew Carey marveled at his hometown's picayune sign regulations.

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