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Former Newhouse Dean suing the town of Manlius over lawn sign restrictions

“This is not about money; this is about the First Amendment”

— In the fall of 2012, Rubin, a community columnist for the Post-Standard, wrote an article on the subject of lawn sign restrictions in the hope that Manlius officials would take note and change the town’s sign ordinance. He received no response from the town, but was instead contacted by the Center for Competitive Politics in Virginia, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to First Amendment rights, particularly for political speech in the context of elections. Someone from the center reached out to Rubin and said they’d like to represent him in trying to persuade the town to get rid of the statute; Rubin agreed.

“I sent them a letter at the end of March basically saying, ‘Here’s our reasoning on why this is unconstitutional, if you would please respond by May 1,” said Allen Dickerson, the legal director at the Center for Competitive Politics.” “Otherwise, we’ll have to go to court.”

Rubin and Dickerson received a letter back from the town on April 26, which noted that the letter had been given to the town attorney; and which promised he would get back to them shortly with his comments. That was the last they heard from the town on the matter, and they decided to take legal action.

“It would’ve been nice if town officials had just reached out to me after I wrote my column last fall to discuss whether they should just get rid of this statute,” Rubin said. “That, it seems, would have been the reasonable, sensible thing to do. And quite frankly, I don’t understand why they didn’t do it.”

Town of Manlius Supervisor Ed Theobald said he was surprised to learn that a lawsuit had been filed and called the lack of communication on his end an “oversight.”

“I’m surprised that they went to this extreme instead of just calling to follow up,” he said. “We probably would have started to compile a response… I never had to deal with the sign ordinance until I ran for a town position. I just went by whatever the code was because it was there; I never took it personally that it was against my freedom of expression. But I suppose if you want to look at it as a constitutional derivative, I guess there is no need to have that code.”

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