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In 2012, the St. Petersburg City Council passed an ordinance banning full use of electronic signs in St. Petersburg. The law bans text that “scrolls” or changes more than every 60 seconds. At the same time the city created exemptions for preferred members of the community including the American Stage Company, Derby Lane and Tropicana field. Meanwhile, the city has ignored enforcement of the law against schools and many businesses. However the city is pursuing its sole enforcement action against Dr. David McKalip by issuing its first fine. Dr. McKalip is going to court Thursday to stand up for free speech in St. Petersburg and to get the law overturned as impermissible under the Florida constitution.
Video of sign in question displaying free speech clause of Florida Constitution. This is the message the city fined. (1/22: updated from prior low quality version).
Ironically, the only evidence the city has of a violation is video of the sign scrolling the following text: “No law shall be passed to restrain or abridge the liberty of speech”. The sign also displayed messages relating to high taxes in the City and opposition to the proposed 14% sales tax hike to build light rail. The sign in question is located at the Southwest Corner of 4th St. N and 62nd Ave N and belongs to the medical practice of Dr. David McKalip. Dr. McKalip is the founder of this blog (SunBeamTimes.com) and recently ran for St. Petersburg City Council for the seat recently won by Darden Rice. The Brief Prepared by George Rahdert states:
“A municipality does not have the power to impose arbitrary and irrational restrictions that deprive individuals of their free speech rights under the banner of regulation. The Sign Code unconstitutionally singles out certain types of signs while allowing others, thus disadvantaging certain types of speech. As a result, it does not genuinely serve a significant governmental interest.”
Dr. McKalip is represented in court by the same attorney used by the Tampa Bay Times for first amendment issues, George Rahdert. The Legal Challenge is posted here. Dr. McKalip offered: “The City’s violation of our natural right to free speech cannot go unchallenged. If they can get away with this they will continue to erode our liberties in more powerful ways”. The court hearing is set for Thursday morning.