Thursday, April 27, 2000

Political ads can ride bus

Candidate Hyland wins SORTA dispute

By Lucy May
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        The Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority can't keep political candidates' advertising or issues off its city buses, a federal judge has ruled.

        The decision is a victory for Marilyn Hyland, who tried to buy a political ad listing her issues on a city bus during her unsuccessful 1998 campaign to unseat Hamilton County Commissioner Tom Neyer Jr.

        The transit authority, SORTA, rejected Ms. Hyland's ad, saying the issues listed were controversial and could hurt ridership.

        The ad showed Ms. Hyland in a baseball uniform with a “She'll go to bat for Hamilton County” slogan and listed four issues: Broadway Commons, local dollars for local jobs, stop E-check and build commuter rail.

        U.S. District Judge Sandra S. Beckwith initially ruled against Ms. Hyland. But the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit ruled in another case that SORTA's past practices made the buses a “public forum,” and, as such, it's difficult to limit what advertising is accepted.

        So Judge Beckwith ruled in Ms. Hyland's favor and awarded her $200 in damages. Ms. Hyland also expects SORTA will have to pay her legal expenses, which total about $10,000.

        Spokeswoman Sallie Hilvers said SORTA changed its policy to accept only commercial advertising after the appeals court ruling in order to avoid controversy.

        Scott Greenwood, Ms. Hyland's lawyer, said that contradicts the court ruling and leaves SORTA open for another lawsuit.


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