Plainfield blinks

Dateline: Wed 17 Sep 2008

Here is the latest from Nick Crews in Plainfield in Hendricks County, re: his legal challenge with the ACLU of a local ordinance prohibiting residents from putting up signs 30 days from an election:

"Mel Daniels, Plainfield's attorney, said that Plainfield will be having a board meeting on Monday night and will announce a 90 day moratorium on enforcement of the ordinance. During the 90 days the town will - we assume - come up with new language for the sign ordinance. This new wording, we're confident, will bring the law into conformity with residents' constitutional rights and existing case law."

Nick said all his info came from Ken Falk, head of the ACLU of Indiana.

Way to go. Looks like the ACLU already has secured victory; it's just a matter of ironing out the details now. Wonder if they have senior citizen rates for membership?

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Indiana Lawyer on details of signage lawsuit

Dateline: Wed 17 Sep 2008

Here is the story from reporter Michael W. Hoskins, written Wednesday in Indiana Lawyer. Lots of detail here about the history of such ordinances in Indiana, and how other municipalities have stepped down from enforcement when challenged at the federal level.

"The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana has filed a federal lawsuit challenging a Plainfield ordinance restricting political lawn signs.

"Filed this morning in the Southern District of Indiana, the case of Robert N. Crews v. Town of Plainfield seeks to have the local zoning ordinance declared unconstitutional and to stop town officials from enforcing it. Plaintiff Robert N. Crews sued after receiving a letter from the planning department Sept. 10 notifying him he couldn't have a political sign displayed in his front yard because of the rules.

"According to the town's 10-year-old local zoning ordinance, those signs can only be posted 30 days prior to the election and must be taken down within five days following the election.

"The sign was less than 16-square feet in area, wasn't placed in a right of way, and didn't hinder safety or traffic visibility, the suit says. While the suit doesn't mention by name the presidential candidate the sign supports, Crews confirmed it was in support of Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama. He removed the sign and hasn't put it back on the lawn since then, but feels his own and his wife's First Amendment rights are being violated, and they want resolution as soon as possible prior to the Nov. 4 election.

"The ACLU of Indiana plans to ask the court to issue a preliminary injunction stopping Plainfield from enforcing the ordinance, according to legal director Ken Falk.

"This is the fourth suit of its kind the civil rights group has filed in the state, and so far three have been resolved in favor of those wanting to put the signs in their front yards.

"In past years, Noblesville and Valparaiso backed down from enforcing political sign restrictions and a proposed settlement in a Highland case is being finalized as the town steps down from enforcing its local ordinance, Falk said."

"It's beyond my comprehension why communities continue to think they can infringe on the First Amendment this way," Falk said. "Numerous cases across the country have struck down these ordinances as a violation, and it's clear that we're talking about a fundamental right of political free speech here, . This is the way all of us have the right to speak about and contribute to campaigns in a very public way."

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ACLU of Indiana, Nick Crews, file lawsuit re: Obama signs

Dateline: Mon 15 Sep 2008

Friend Nick Crews and his wife Crystal Crews were none too happy to receive a letter from Plainfield, where they reside, advising them that their Obama sign in the front yard had to come down until 30 days in advance of the election.

The town has an ordinance prohibiting political signs being in front yards during that time period, Crews learned. The family had Obama sign up since the primary.

The issue seemed to strike at the heart of free speech, they reasoned.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana agrees. Together, Crews and the rights organization have filed a lawsuit challenging Plainfield's law.

Jonathan Swain of the Obama campaign said he understands Hancock County also has such an ordinance in Greenfield.

This lawsuit has legs. It will be fascinating to see what develops. How can it be legal for Marion County -- and Putnam County for that matter -- to allow signs, and Hancock and Hendricks County to disallow them?

Makes no damn sense. Bad law.

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The quarry: adieu

Dateline: Mon 15 Sep 2008

Every time one makes a move, daughter Elizabeth reminded me yesterday, it is the equivalent of a fire: the loss, the chaos. Mainly, it's the loss. One loses items in the packing, never to turn up again.

But all that is lost this time, really, is the place -- 90 acres of woods, meadows and water, high bluffs, deep pits, deer, coons, coyotes, fish, frogs and fowl. One never really owned them anyhow, so how can they possibly truly be lost?

In this wretched real estate market -- I've seen so many foreclosures in Indy I think that's all that is left of the city -- we've been lucky enough. It only took two years to move this property.

The go-to agent we finally contracted with, the one who got the job done, told us at the beginning of the transaction: "I want to put a sign up -- DO NOT COME TO PUTNAM COUNTY. STAY OUT." She'd seen her share of "move-in's" (that's what we would always be here, move-in's) who quickly tired of rural life. They were then desperate to unload their land, to get back to the city, where there were no deer in the yard and CVS really is right around the corner instead of a 12-minute drive.

Oh, hell. That was never my problem. I did, however, buy the American dream, ala Scarlett O'Hara: the land will make you free, give you bliss, be the only real meaning in your life.

Not so. Many people write books about their successful country rebirths. They end up growing lavender, or raising goats, or opening a green camp -- they find fortune and enough fame to qualify for one magazine article or, if they are really talented, a memoir.

I intend to write the true story: eight years in the wilderness. It was a lot of fun and a hell of a ride, but it was not paradise, and it was not a cure-all.

In the meantime, back to the fire.

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Dateline: Fri 12 Sep 2008

The comic strip "For Better or For Worse," did run in the Sunday Star, and in fact the last one ran there on Sunday Aug. 31 -- the summary of every character's life at the culmination of Elizabeth and Anthony's wedding.

I missed this episode due to using the funny papers as packing material for the great trek from Putnam County back to Marion County.

Also, the strip is still carried by other newspapers. Even better, you can read it online at the official "For Better or For Worse" website:

THANKS to the alert reader who pointed out my error. For some reason, the Sunday strip faded from memory -- cartoonist Lynn Johnston always used that space for an anecdotal message rather than carry on the week's story line. In other words, duh.

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