Los Angeles Times (09.25.12)
Craig Miller, the founder of AIDS Walk Los Angeles, has sued the city of Santa Monica regarding its decision to prohibit the organization’s paid ads on Santa Monica’s Big Blue Bus system. Miller alleges that the barring of promotional ads for the group’s fundraiser in October was in violation of free speech. Santa Monica residents Paloma Bennett and Lisa Brisse are joining him in the suit. At issue is that the Big Blue Bus system stated last year that it could not continue to display the ads because only commercial advertising is allowed to be run. However, it had previously run the nonprofit group’s ads for several years.
The bus system’s chief administrative officer, Joe Stitcher, explained earlier in September that the prohibition had been on the books for a long time, and in the past, officials had mistakenly violated it when they allowed ads for AIDS Walk Los Angeles and other nonprofit groups. He stated that the ban was meant to shield the bus system from becoming a “public forum,” which is a legal designation meaning that city officials had little control over the content of ads.
The plaintiffs from AIDS Walk Los Angeles stated in their suit that without their advertising on the defendant’s buses, those who will benefit from their event will be negatively impacted in terms of the funds raised and distributed, the numbers of people participating, and the communication of the AIDS Walk Los Angeles’ message.
There were 30,000 volunteers participating in the event in 2011. AIDS Walk Los Angeles has raised more than $72 million for HIV programs and services in Los Angeles County since it began in 1985.