Political candidates who don’t keep proper tabs on their campaign signs could face prosecution this year, cautioned City Attorney Kit Williams.
The warning came following a brief discussion during the City Council’s agenda-setting session held Tuesday afternoon.
“We have a problem this year,” said Adella Gray, a Ward 1 alderwoman.
Gray said she’s received several complaints about signs which violate the city’s sign ordinance, particularly large political signs that are not yet allowed to be displayed.
According to Williams, city law states that political signs larger than 8 square feet may not be displayed inside city limits until 60 days before the election to which the sign applies. With the general election set for Nov. 6 this year, the 60-day mark will come on Sept. 8.
Gray, who is running for state representative this year in House District 84, did not say which candidates the signs were supporting, but said there are currently several large signs in Ward 1 which violate the 60-day law.
“It’s not really quite fair for some people to think they can put them up whenever, while other people are trying to follow the ordinance,” she said.
Gray said she’s asked the city’s Code Compliance department to look into the issue.
Jeremy Pate, the city’s development service director, said the city could begin issuing warnings this week to those in violation of the ordinance.
Williams, however, said it’s likely not the property owners who would face prosecution if the warnings are ignored. “We’d probably go after the candidates,” he said. “They’re the ones ultimately responsible for their campaign.”
In a Feb. 22 memo (PDF) sent to city officials, Williams detailed the regulations in the city’s sign ordinance that relate to political signs. The memo was included in a city-issued press release (PDF) sent late Tuesday afternoon.
In the memo, Williams states:
- Residents may display one small (up to 8 square feet), non-commercial, non-illuminated sign year-round inside the city limits.
- Residents may display additional small signs or one large sign (not to exceed 32 square feet) beginning 60 days before the election.
- Residents may only display one sign for each candidate, referendum or initiative issue they wish to support.
- Businesses (commercial- or industrial-zoned lots) may replace (not add) their permitted sign with a political sign year-round.
- Businesses may add one large sign (not to exceed 32 square feet) per 100 feet of street frontage beginning 60 days before the election.
- All large election campaign signs must be removed within three days following the election to which the sign applies, unless the sign supports a candidate involved in a run-off election.
Williams also cautioned candidates against placing signs on private property without the owner’s permission, and placing signs on city property including all city parks, utility poles, traffic signs and city right-of-way which normally include at least the sidewalk, culvert, ditch and utility area along a street.