Citizens' Voice "Beat Reporter" and "Community Watchdog" Coulter Jones has been awarded the prestigious OVC Yuri Andropov award. The "Yuri" is awarded to an individual who shows utter contempt for the Right of Free Speech. The Yuri was instituted by OVC in 2006 and is named after the former Soviet KGB Chief who fulfilled his childhood dream and became leader of the Soviet Union in 1982. Coulter will receive an autographed copy of Das Kapital, a fifth of Russian vodka, and a roll of duct tape.
In the May 2nd edition of the Citizens' Voice, Jones penned a column entitled "Campaign signs litter roadways as primary draws closer." To the staff, at OVC we love political signs and see them as one of the ultimate symbols of the democratic process and the Freedom of Speech guaranteed by the First Amendment. It is quite ironic and clearly in the spirit of Yuri that Coulter Jones would see signs as "litter."
Democracy is not always pretty and not always sterile. Unfortunately, the Coulter Joneses of this country want it to be that way. God forbid a couple of signs "litter" the public highways and byways.
Public spaces have always been a place where one can express his or her opinion. The pamphleteers who helped spawned the American Revolution used these public spaces to spread their message. The political signs in public spaces today are the pamphleteers of Colonial Times. Unfortunately, many local politicians don't understand this parallel.
Local townships pass anti free speech ordinances, because "everyone else is doing it," and because their solicitors don't tell them that what they're doing flies in the face of the First Amendment. Political speech is the cornerstone of the First Amendment, and laws which restrict it rarely meet the constitutional standard. The justification that political signs are "unsightly" or "litter" shows a deep misunderstanding of free speech guarantees of the First Amendment..
Don't get us wrong, after the election has passed, then the signs become litter. We have absolutely no problem with a township, a city, or borough requiring candidates to remove their signs within a reasonable time after the election.
The Wilkes-Barre City ordinance, to which Coulter refers in his column, is just plain unconstitutional, and Wilkes-Barre City should know better. The last time we checked, Wilkes-Barre City is not a First Amendment free zone.
And, as far as calling or e-mailing Coulter to notify him of signs that violate local ordinances, perhaps time would be better spent sending Coutler and the local officials a copy of the United States and Pennsylvania Constitutions, which both expressly prohibit such infringements on political speech.