The Arizona Appeals Court heard oral argument yesterday in a case involving Winchell's Donut franchisee Edward Salib. Mesa officials have repeatedly cited Mr. Salib for violating the city's sign ordinance. His crime involves hanging professionally produced posters in his storefront windows. With the help of the Institute for Justice, he filed a lawsuit challenging the ordinance.
The Mesa ordinance prohibits businesses from covering more than 30 percent of any window area. Officials claim it is designed to promote public safety and protect neighborhood aesthetics. The problem with the rationale is that the ordinance allows windows to be completely covered with blinds or shades and windows can be completely darkened to not allow anyone to see in or out of an establishment.
The sign ordinance is a dangerous restriction on Mr. Salib's right to free speech. Both the Arizona and U.S. Constitutions protect his right to advertise his products in a truthful and professional manner. His shop is located on the corner of Main and Country Club drive - the same intersection where the Institute for Justice fought Mesa's attempt to seize Randy Bailey's brake shop. That case illustrated that an individual can fight city hall. Let's hope Mr. Salib is successful and Mesa officials finally get the message: leave small businesses alone.