AATA Board Calls Special Meeting

The Ann Arbor Transportation Authority board will hold a special meeting on Thursday, Jan. 3, 2013 at 4 p.m. at the AATA headquarters at 2700 S. Industrial Highway.

The purpose of the special meeting is related to a pending lawsuit against the AATA – for refusing to allow an anti-Israeli advertisement to be placed on the sides of its buses. Based on the timeline set forth in a recent court order, the board’s meeting will likely include a closed session to evaluate the previously rejected advertisement under the terms of a newly revised advertising policy. The board adopted the revised ad policy in late November. By Jan. 4, the day after the special meeting, the AATA must notify the plaintiff in the case, Ann Arbor resident Blaine Coleman, of its decision on the advertisement.

In the Dec. 17, 2012 court order, judge Mark Goldsmith of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan ruled that the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority had to reconsider an advertisement it had previously rejected for placement on the sides of its buses. [.pdf of Dec. 17, 2012 court order] The ad included the text “Boycott ‘Israel’ Boycott Apartheid.”

In the course of the lawsuit, which was filed over a year ago, the court has ruled in favor of Coleman on his request for a preliminary injunction, based on a finding that the original advertising policy had unconstitutional portions. But Goldsmith left the question of appropriate relief to be determined. Since that initial ruling, the AATA board, at its Nov. 29, 2012 meeting, revised its advertising policy. [For detailed coverage, see “AATA Adopts New Advertising Policy.”] So the court’s order on Dec. 17 required the AATA to reconsider the advertisement under its new policy.

Crucially, the new policy omits a “good taste” provision, which the court found to be unconstitutional. The policy also includes a revised provision that previously disallowed ads supporting or opposing political candidates or ballot propositions. The new policy more broadly bans “political or political campaign advertising.”

The court’s order established a timeline: (1) By Dec. 21, 2012, Coleman had to resubmit the ad – either the original version of the ad or a revised version. (2) By Jan. 4, 2013, the AATA reconsiders the ad under the revised advertising policy and notifies Coleman. (3) On Jan. 9, 2013 a status conference with the court will be held to discuss whether additional preliminary injunctive relief is proper and what will happen next.

According to Coleman’s ACLU attorney, Dan Korobkin, the ad that would be re-submitted to the AATA was the original ad.