NP Council considers new rules on political signs

NP Council considers new rules on political signs

NORTH PROVIDENCE - Turns out those signs put out on local lawns every election season are illegal.

Members of the North Providence Town Council's ordinance committee say they made the discovery as they were conducting a general review of the town's rules on signs. What they found was quite surprising.

"Election signs of any size or shape which advertise any person for political office or advertise a political party are hereby prohibited from being located or placed on private property," states the code of ordinances.

According to the town's bylaws, election signs are only permitted at a candidate's election headquarters, on commercial billboards, and on moving vehicles. The existing ordinance calls for a $100 fine for placing a campaign sign on a private lawn.

Officials weren't sure how or when the rule against signs on private property was adopted.

Committee Chairwoman Alice Brady told her colleagues on the Town Council last week that committee members want to implement a new set of rules for political signs she says are based on rules in neighboring Lincoln. The revised rules would:

* Allow political signs on private property.

* Require that political signs be put up no more than 45 days in advance of an election and be taken down no later than 45 days after an election. Currently there are no time limits, according to North Providence officials.

* And maintain an existing prohibition against placing campaign signs on public property.

Brady told The Breeze she called for a review of the town's sign ordinances specifically to deal with putting limits on when signs can go up, and "to decrease the annoyance level" for constituents, but was surprised to learn that the existing rules ban political signs on private property.

"Especially with an election year coming up, it's outdated and I thought it was time to align it with what the public wants," said Brady.

"It says you can't have any political signs on your lawn, so I guess you're not supposed to have them," said Council President Kristen Catanzaro, who serves as a member of the ordinance committee. "That doesn't make any sense."

Added Catanzaro, "there's really a need to change this because everyone's been doing it."

Officials are planning a public hearing on the proposed sign ordinance changes next month, said Brady. She wants residents to have the chance to voice their opinion on existing rules that are "clearly not consistent with current practice."

"That's my concern," she said. "We need to update the ordinance."

Catanzaro asked Brady if the ordinance committee might also consider language that would prohibit placing political signs on foreclosed properties. During her 2012 campaign against Joe Zuccolo, she saw many signs go up on the lawns of bank-owned properties, said Catanzaro. She doubts that bank officials are giving permission for the signs, said Catanzaro.

Though officials like Councilor Manny Giusti believe it will be difficult to enforce a ban on signs at foreclosed properties, Brady said she likes the idea of including rules for foreclosed properties.

A 45-day window before and after an election will give plenty of time for candidates to get out their message, according to committee members, while also reducing confusion about who is running in a primary or general election.

According to Catanzaro, some candidates have put their signs up as early as June, leading to frustration for residents.

The updates to the town's sign ordinances are not a "gotcha" kind of move, said Catanzaro, but instead a needed updating of rules that were badly out of date for many years.

"This is about making the ordinance go with what people have been doing," she said.

Comments

Have all the rules you want. We can put on any sign on our lawns when ever we want. FREE SPEECH. You can only govern sign structures, ie commercial signs. IF a pol wants to put their signs up and people agree to, they can. I think most will abide in the general rule of the 30 days, so as not to upset voters. Don't need ANOTHER "aren't we powerful" but unneeded laws.

Well, if putting up political signs is illegal and subject to a $100 fine, I'm positive that citations will be issued immediately, and they'll be retro active for the past 50 yrs. Every politician in this town is officially a criminal. Every person that ran for public office in the past 50 yrs, is officially a criminal. Will all of this newly found revenue coming in, the mayor can now lower the taxes to all of it's residents.

Yeah, I'll hold my breath

Putting up signs 45 days before an election is fine, but, allowing 45 days for them to be removed is way too long. 45 days after a typical November election is too close to Christmas day. I'd rather see Christmas decorations on a lawn than a political sign. Give them a week after the election to remove the signs. That should be sufficient time.

About a year after this ordinance was enacted, another community in RI was sued and this ordinance was subsequently struck down as unconstitutional.
Afterwards, the parties that were running for office agreed that they would abide by it for that particular election, but the ordinance is unenforceable. If I remember correctly, the court ruled that the town can regulate the size of the sign only, which is how the "lawn sign" came about.

There's no reason at all for any political signs to be posted. If people aren't interested enough or intelligent enough to actually know or care who's running for office, they shouldn't be showing up on election day.
Most people don't have a clue, they vote for the person who's done a political favor for them, or for a friend of their's. I bet if you took a poll right now of every person who voted in the town's last election, more than 80% couldn't name more than 3 people on the town council. yet they voted for them.