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Caltrans rejects flags, banners

Caltrans rejects flags, banners


March 28, 2003
By Lisa Mascaro
Staff Writer

An “America love it or leave it” banner strung across the Ventura Freeway in Agoura Hills prompted a sharp reaction from Caltrans officials Friday.
“If it’s up there, it’s coming down,” said Caltrans spokeswoman Deborah Harris.
Freeway overpasses might seem to offer prime space for airing messages in this time of passionate public debatewith thousands of motorists passing by each daybut Caltrans forbids it.
Following this month’s federal appeals court ruling that the state Department of Transportation must allow displays from all viewpoints, or none at all, not even the American flag, Caltrans chose the latter and now dismantles all freeway overpass displays.
That includes the “America love it or leave it” banner.
Harris said Caltrans’ decision follows the March 13 ruling by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which upheld a lower court ruling in a case regarding freeway banners after the terrorist attacks.
Following 9-11, the outpouring of patriotism led to spontaneous displays of American flags along the highways. But in Santa Cruz, two people put up a banner questioning the prospect of a War on Terrorism, which read, “At What Cost?” The sign was removed by a police officer.
The court ruled that Caltrans cannot allow only American flags to be displayed, and must either allow all flags and banners to fly, or none.
“Indeed, it is the potency of the flag’s message that makes Caltrans reluctant to remove it from California’s highways. In light of recent world events, that reluctance is laudable,” the court ruling says. “However, the policy derived from it is not.”
Harris explained that banners on the overpasses can distract drivers and cause other traffic problems.
“This has been a safety (issue), so we’re removing all of the flags and banners,” Harris said. “Not only a distraction while driving, but they can come attached from the overpasses and perhaps cause an accident.”
Caltrans’ maintenance crews are responsible for getting rid of signs.
“They don’t go looking for them, no, but in the course of our regular maintenance activities, because our crews are out every day, they will remove them,” she said.

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