Candidate sues after bus ad refused

Friday, September 25, 1998

BY ANNE MICHAUD
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Hamilton County Commission candidate Marilyn Hyland has sued SORTA in federal court for refusing to run "controversial" political ads on the sides of Metro buses.

SORTA -- the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority -- said it would be happy to run the ads if Ms. Hyland would remove her position statements. They are: Broadway Commons for a Reds stadium, local dollars for local jobs, building a commuter rail, and an end to Ohio's E-check tailpipe emissions testing for most cars and light trucks.

"We feel buses are places for people to go back and forth to work or school," said SORTA spokeswoman Sallie Hilvers. "We don't want to subject them to issues that are controversial for one side or the other."

Cincinnati City Councilman Todd Portune said he will challenge the bus agency's decision next week at council, which provides funding for SORTA.

Ms. Hyland called SORTA's position "ludicrous. When you're going to vote for someone, you need to know what they stand for."

The Hyland campaign filed suit in U.S. District Court in Cincinnati on Thursday. The suit seeks a temporary restraining order to stop SORTA from blocking the ads, said lawyer Scott Greenwood, who is representing Ms. Hyland's campaign.

Allowing candidates to show just faces and names on bus banners is akin to advertising that is "a clash of corporate logos," Mr. Greenwood said. "It really is like Nike versus Adidas. Do you like the swoosh or that flower thing?"

Just a year ago, U.S. District Judge Susan Dlott ordered SORTA to accept a labor union advertisement that it had rejected as too controversial. SORTA has appealed the ruling.

The loss should have taught the bus agency that it can't censor ads, Mr. Portune said.

"It stretches the imagination that political advertising is going to impact their ridership," he said. "They're entering into an area that they have no business entering into."

Ms. Hilvers argued that Judge Dlott's decision also included an affirmation: The judge ruled that SORTA's ad policy meets constitutional standards and that space on the outside of SORTA buses is not a public forum where anyone with the money can say anything.

In the case of the union ad, the judge objected on the basis that the agency had exercised its policy unreasonably.

The policy says that SORTA reserves the right to refuse "advertising of controversial public issues that may adversely affect SORTA's ability to attract and maintain ridership."

Both the Broadway Commons and E-check references fall into that category, Ms. Hilvers said.

"The candidates have ample opportunity to air their issues elsewhere," she said.



Local Headlines For Friday, September 25, 1998

CLINTON - STARR COVERAGE
"Average Joe' robs 4th bank
"Super school' unpopular with parents
'Dead Man Walking' hard for Morris to watch
Buddy up to "Buddy Faro' and 'Two of a Kind'
CAMPAIGN NOTEBOOK
Candidate sues after bus ad refused
Cathedral Fest spotlights art
City left policeman's widow with the bills
City's high schools targeted
Civil Rights' Shining Light
Coach made deal to escape charges
Deters determined to have role in Franklin prosecution
Elections panel: Dems can keep union money
Former Enquirer reporter guilty
Four-party debate too much for Fisher
From nightmare to forgiveness
Health coverage restored for 800
Imperiled Explorers troop bounces back
Judge dismisses sex harrassment case against The Precinct
Kentucky Dems hit hard by scandals
Miss Ohio keeps title
New approach urged on student problems
NKU realigns administration
NKU, professor appeal sex harassment case
Patton linked to indictments
Prisoner had to give himself insulin
Shutdown of FWW brings crackdown
Strike 2 for new landfill
Student's attacker gets 6 years
Sycamore bond issue under fire
TRISTATE DIGEST
Tristate ordered to clean air
Wilkinsons to headline ChiliFest
Wyoming seeks volunteer Webmaster