Political Activity (including Recalls) and Public Property

I have received many calls and emails about the signature gathering in front of the library and the pool. Some people are unhappy that any political activity is allowed. Others are unhappy that the canvassers have been required to remove signs and banners.

The City of Mequon takes no position regarding any candidate or petition process. Rather, it only fairly and impartially applies the law.

People have the right to collect signatures or pass out literature on public property. Those are free speech and gathering rights guarantied under the Constution. The City has no ordinance prohibiting those activities and, according to the courts, if it did, it would be unenforcable.

People also have the right to sit at tables and chairs on public property (assuming they do not obstruct walkways or pose other safety concerns). Mequon could enact an ordinance prohibiting people from bringing chairs and tables into the parks or onto other public property. But Mequon has no ordinance like that. If it did, the ordinance would need to prohibit anyone from bringing a table or chairs (including, for example, a lawn chair for sunbathing or watching kids). An ordinance like that cannot just be directed at political activities.

Mequon has ordinances, however, that prohibit posting signs and banners on public property, either on or into the ground or attached to any item. Those ordinances are enforceable because they are not directed at political activities. The City enforces them in this instance because it would enforce them under any other circumstance.

The sign prohibitions, however, do not apply to signs carried by people. People may carry protest or advocacy signs.

The City and Police Department have been consistent in enforcing these standards. The City and Police Department acknowledge the right of people to collect signatures, sit at tables and chairs and carry signs. The City and Police Department have not, however, otherwise allowed signs or banners in the parks or in road rights-of-way.

The City and Police Department are applying the same rules for the current situation as they did for the Walker recall and the Evers recall.

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