Nov 11

Earlier we reported on Alderman Bob Fioretti’s efforts to ban mobile billboards from the streets of Chicago, Illinois, and assess $5,000 fines for disobedience. Fioretti’s not talking about a ban on all outdoor advertising, however, just mobile billboards. We said that his proposal bullied mobile billboards, and now a professor of law at Northwestern University adds that the proposal may also be unconstitutional.

Martin Redish told the Chi-Town Daily News that a ban on moving truck advertising would be “a clear violation of freedom of speech” and noted that the Supreme Court has been giving commercial speech more weight in the past 10 to 15 years. While commercial speech may not carry full protection under the First Amendment, laws that prohibit it have to show “a material interest by the government,” according to Redish, and must not “restrict more speech than necessary.”

Another significant obstacle to passage of the ban is the fact that it’s aimed only at mobile billboards and not at other traffic problems or driver distractions. “When what you leave unregulated presents the same danger as what you are regulating, it’s unconstitutional,” Redish said.

Although Fioretti maintains that his ban does not violate the Constitution and is still confident that the ban will pass, he did defer its late October consideration by the City Council’s Committee on License and Consumer Protection. Fioretti requested the deferment to gather witnesses and experts, as well as consider exemptions for parade vehicles.