Do New Albany Housing Authority residents enjoy freedom of speech as it pertains to political campaign yard signs?


The Green Mouse has learned that earlier this week a resident at the New Albany Housing Authority planted a David White for Mayor yard sign in his yard.

It wasn’t as big as this one, but still.

The resident promptly was told by maintenance (wait — doesn’t councilman Matt Nash now work in maintenance at NAHA?) to remove the sign. He asked if he could put the sign on his door or in the window, and learned that they’d have to go ask the esteemed Gauleiter Duggins first.

Scanning the Interwebz, it appears this controversy isn’t uncommon.

Another issue which has not been discussed in great detail by the courts is the regulation of political signs in front yards in a community governed by a homeowners association. In general, the First Amendment protections do not extend to private residences governed by a homeowners association. If the regulations governing the display of political signs involve a contract between two private parties and the government is not involved, then the regulations will be valid. If, on the other hand, the government is an actor, then a complete ban on political signs will probably be invalid. The Washington Supreme Court recently held that a local housing authority could not prohibit the posting of political signs on the doors to residences in a public housing complex.

There was a case with yard signs at a public housing site in Massachusetts.

Political signs can only be displayed in a tenant’s interior window or spaces where a tenant has exclusive control,” (management) said. “So we asked Mr. Rose to remove the signs, he didn’t, and our maintenance department did and returned them.”

But Harvey Silverglate, a civil liberties litigator, said Rose would prevail if he took the matter to court.

“That rule prohibiting political signs would be declared unconstitutional,” he said. “It may be permissible for the housing authority to limit the size of the signs or the exact placement, but a blanket prohibition is too broad and too restrictive of speech.”

And one from Michigan.

Public housing residents remove campaign signs after eviction threats

Public housing residents in Traverse City have removed campaign signs after officials threatened to evict them. The Traverse City Housing Commission took action after some residents displayed signs in favor of a public vote on buildings taller than 60 feet. It’s a question on Tuesday’s ballot.

The housing director says the signs violate the lease. But some disagree.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan sent a letter to the commission saying the ban on displaying window signs without approval is violation of the first amendment.

One local attorney said this.

I don’t know the precise answer to that question, but I can’t imagine an outright ban that would pass constitutional muster.

Another added:

Haven’t researched the nuts and bolts for Indiana, but a landlord cannot prohibit political speech. They can impose some reasonable time, place, and manner restrictions. Displaying a political sign from the inside of your unit should be fine.

As of this precise moment, it isn’t know whether the NAHA resident in question has received an answer. Oddly, if there’s a policy prohibiting yard signs at the housing authority, it would prevent a sitting mayor like Jeff Gahan from commissioning Duggins to compel NAHA population to “voluntarily” displaying Gahan’s signs as a form of coerced adoration.

Maybe Duggins could threaten them with a TASER.