Sign dispute's message is: 'Welcome, lawyers'

August 12, 2013 

We may not be constitutional law experts, but we do have a handshake acquaintance with the First Amendment. Under it, nothing is as sacred or as protected as political speech.

So we have to wonder why Belleville leaders are taking on Diane Rogge and her sign protesting the city's refusal to give her business $15,000 in tax increment financing funds. She thinks the refusal was political payback for her support of Mayor Mark Eckert's opponent, Phil Elmore. She thinks the city's threat of $500 a day in fines for the sign is more of the same.

Now she's suing the city in federal court.

We loved the point made by her lawyer, Eric Rhein: "the ex-city attorney, Robert Sprague, lawfully posts political signs in his law office front window on East Washington Street in the city at election time, and the city has never sent this 'Belleville Good Government Party' leader any cease and desist letters."

Plenty of other lawyers out there who stuff their windows with political signs, too.

This all sounds like an expensive black eye for the city. Maybe their next letter to Rogge should start: "Oops. Sorry."

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