Signature-gatherers will have to keep their distance from fair entrances, for now
BY ALEXIS KRELL AND ALLISON NEEDLES
August 02, 2018
sidewalks along the main entrances to the Washington State Fairgrounds
won’t be fair game for initiative signature-gatherers during Puyallup’s
main event — this year.
A signature-gather sued the city of Puyallup earlier this year, contending the so-called “pedestrian safety zones” that keep him from those entrances violate his free speech rights.
the lawsuit works its way through federal court in Tacoma, Roy Ruffino
asked U.S. District Court Judge Benjamin Settle to keep the city from
enforcing the zones during this year’s fair, from Aug. 31 to Sept. 23.
On Thursday, Settle said no to the request for a preliminary injunction.
attorney, Fred Diamondstone, had argued that face-to-face contact is
important to the free speech activity of gathering signatures.
“This is core political speech here,” Diamondstone, told the court.
The city’s restrictions, he said, “pushes Mr. Ruffino too far away to be able to engage with people.”
was collecting signatures outside the Spring Fair in April, when police
told him to leave. They said he could be arrested for trespassing and
zones are near the fair’s Blue Gate and Gold Gate, and take effect
during the fall fair and the Spring Fair. They extend “along sections of
sidewalk up to 121 feet in length,” according to Ruffino’s lawsuit.
Puyallup says they’re necessary to prevent congestion that could lead to injuries, such as someone stepping into the roadway.
not talking about a ban on free speech,” Adam Rosenberg, an attorney
representing the city, told the court. “We’re talking about a ban on
argued in his motion for the injunction that the fall fair is a big
opportunity for him, in part because many of the 1 million-plus
fairgoers come from rural areas that tend to be more conservative, and
therefore are more likely to support Initiative 976, a Tim Eyman-backed
measure about car tab fees.
Ruffino’s company, Citizen Solutions, has contracted to gather signatures for the initiative.
said that, while Ruffino’s effort technically could be irrevocably hurt
by not being able to collect signatures in the zones during this year’s
fair, “the same could be said of the city of Puyallup,” if the zones
weren’t enforced and someone were injured.
court is reluctant to interfere with a city’s good faith effort to try
to balance these very important competing interests,” of public safety
and free speech, Settle said.
he said the city could take another look at the executive order that
created the safety zones, to see if it could be improved.
still early in the case, the judge said, and he asked that the city and
Ruffino investigate whether the executive order could be amended, to
avoid further litigation.
about that, City Manager Kevin Yamamoto said: “... we don’t want to
compromise in the executive order if it’s going to increase the risk to
the public. ... We’re certainly open to changes that would be good for