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Scottsdale to appeal sign-walker ruling

Oct 13, 2014

Arizona Republic

Scottsdale - That silly First Amendment thingy doesn't apply to us. We are royal government rulers. Well at least that's how the city of Scottsdale seems to feel about the issue.

Scottsdale to appeal sign-walker ruling

Edward Gately, The Republic | 10:53 a.m. MST October 13, 2014

Scottsdale isn't giving up its fight to prohibit sign-walkers from sidewalks and street corners, contrary to what state law allows.

Last week, the City Council authorized City Attorney Bruce Washburn to appeal a Maricopa County Superior Court judge's ruling that the city must abide by a new state law allowing sign-walkers on public property and in public rights of way.

Vice Mayor Guy Phillips was the only council member who voted no. He previously suggested the city establish a permit for sign-walkers to operate in the public right-of-way that would include numerous provisions, such as requiring them to be employed by legitimate businesses, stay away from medians and not throwing their signs in the air.

"I don't see any reason why we should pursue this and spend any taxpayer money on it," he said. "I understand the rest of the council's position, we are a charter city and should be able to make our own rules and laws, but some things you just have to go along with the state."

In late August, Judge Robert Oberbillig issued his ruling after the Arizona Attorney General's Office and Washburn each submitted motions for the court to bring an end to the case in their favor.

A city ordinance restricts sign-walkers to private property, preventing them from standing close to traffic on sidewalks. The revised state law, which took effect in July, requires cities to allow the sign-walkers on public property and public rights of way.

In May, Washburn filed a complaint seeking a judgment declaring that the state law constitutionally cannot be applied to the city because of its status as an Arizona city governed by its own charter. Charter status allows the city to set rules for managing its streets and sidewalks, among other things, the city argued.

The larger issue, however, involved how far the state can go in imposing rules on charter cities.

"The court has not entered a final judgment yet, although I anticipate its doing so in the near future," Washburn said. "Once it does the city will file a notice of appeal and the case will then be before the Arizona Court of Appeals."

Once briefs have been filed by Washburn, the Attorney General's Office and Jim Torgeson, owner of Mesa-based Sign King of Arizona, who is an intervenor in the case, the court will determine if it will hear oral arguments.

The Court of Appeals then will issue either a memorandum decision or an opinion deciding the matter, Washburn said.

"Essentially the city will be stating that it disagrees with the trial court's application of the law to the facts in this case and asking that the Court of Appeals reverse the judgment of the trial court," he said.