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Wayne 1, Crystal Lake 0

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

McHenry County, Illinois Topics:  Viking Dodge

Wayne 1, Crystal Lake 0

Gus Philpott
Woodstock Advocate
January 10, 2008

You may remember last year’s stories about Wayne, the guy with the signs about Viking Dodge in Crystal Lake. You’ve seen Wayne, although mostly in warmer weather. He parks along U.S. 14 in Crystal Lake and holds up his sign for all passersby to see.

Well, Wayne got a ticket last fall for unlawful display of a sign on his car. He had a magnetic sign on the back of his car while it was parked on the shoulder of U.S. 14 near IL 176. What did the sign say? “Viking Dodge Lies”

The Crystal Lake Code Enforcement Officer signed a complaint against Wayne and had a Crystal Lake cop write Wayne a ticket. Not a warning, but a ticket. Of course, if a business in Crystal Lake violates the Crystal Lake sign ordinance, it gets a warning. Then it remedies the violation and the warning is forgotten. Then it violates the ordinance again, and it gets a warning. Then it remedies the violation and the warning is forgotten. Starting to get the picture.

Wayne had an attorney, but I was able to offer him a lot of support and some ideas. I encouraged him to appeal his ticket to the City Council and demand a hearing, which is granted right in the Crystal Lake city ordinance. The City Council refused to grant him a hearing.

Because the wording is right in the city law, I urged him to request a hearing again and, if that didn’t work, then just go to a City Council meeting and speak to them during the Public Comment period. He did, and what happened?

As a result of his own self-advocacy, the City of Crystal Lake said it would dismiss the ticket.

Knowing of one driver’s experience in Colorado with a ticket that had been promised for dismissal, I urged Wayne to go to court, anyway. He did, and he let me know after the court date that he felt that, had he not gone to court, the City might not have dismissed his case. Of course, that’s only a feeling. Perhaps they really would have done the honorable thing in his absence and followed the course of dismissal set out by the City Attorney in his letter to Wayne.

Through his picketing Wayne has been expressing his constitutional First Amendment right to free speech. It was a real stretch for the City to believe he had an illegal sign on his vehicle. A real stretch. We’ll never know just how it happened that the Code Enforcement Officer ordered the ticket issued to Wayne. Did he do it on his own? Was he told to do it? Who called whom?

The lesson is to fight every injustice. One of my favorite sayings is, “the price of freedom is eternal vigilance.” A wise Irish politician and judge said that 200 years ago. We must be vigilant. We remain free by remaining vigilant.

To Wayne? Bravo, Wayne. You did well!

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