Auburn should end limitations on private signs

The Auburn City Council needs to re-examine its political sign ordinance after legitimate doubts were raised in Lewiston about the constitutionality of similar rules.

Monday night the Auburn Council heard a proposal from Councilor Tizz Crowley to forbid political signs on city medians and other public property during elections. Crowley — who posted political signs last year during her uncontested campaign for election to the Ward 1 seat — argued that the signs are an eyesore and a distraction to drivers.

Others might argue that the colorful signs are a reassuring indicator that local democracy is alive and well. Plus they give candidates an relatively inexpensive way to get their name before the public.

Councilors heard Crowley's objections but left the existing ordinance standing.

But that ordinance has a problem,  a 30-day limit on when signs can be displayed on private property and a seven-day deadline to have them removed.

Last month, Tim Lajoie, a Republican candidate for Maine House District 73, challenged a Lewiston ordinance that forbids election signs on private property to six weeks before an election.

The American Civil Liberties Union weighed in on the issue, pointing out that the local ordinances appear to conflict with state law and the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights.

Lewiston, Farmington and Alfred all agreed to hold off on enforcing their sign ordinances, and the Lewiston Council voted Tuesday night to exempt private property from its sign rules.

"These ordinances single out the restriction of political speech, which is unconstitutional," Alysiz Melnick, a lawyer with the ACLU of Maine told the Sun Journal last month.

"Local governments can't legislatively silence political speech by treating political messages different from other types of signs."

Lewiston will continue to limit signs on certain public rights of way and on some public property, including schools, parks and cemeteries.

Auburn should also drop its restrictions on signs placed on private property to conform with the law.

rrhoades@sunjournal.com

The opinions expressed in this column reflect the views of the ownership and the editorial board.

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Comments

Tizz Crowley's picture

corrections to article

My race in ward 1 was contested. Although my opponent stopped campaigning about two weeks before the election, his name did appear on the ballot.

My proposed change did not impact political signs on private property. I think a property owners should have the right to post any political opinion on his/her own property as long as it is not a safety concern (such as blocking views for traffic).

My primary concern is safety. Signs are intended to be read... which means we have distracted drivers at major intersections and where there are traffic medians... just where we don't need distractions.

I also proposed a way to address the free speech concerns and unknown candidates.

Let's hope our current ordinance is enforced.

Thanks for your opinion and for "listening".
Tizz

Steve  Dosh's picture

Auburn should end limitations on private signs

ed., 12.10.03 noon hst
. .it's somewhat of slippery slope . ME , VT, and HI are the only states that do not allow billboards , TX allows most n e thing and every thing •
Look B 4 you leap <3 h t h /s, Steve

 's picture

The story says...

"Others might argue that the colorful signs are a reassuring indicator that local democracy is alive and well."

I feel really sorry for these obviously insecure people. How many do you suppose there are?

Steve  Dosh's picture

ßob , Post a picture . It's

ßob , Post a picture . It's E Z to do • It's kinda' like posting a private sign :D

Jason Theriault's picture

End the limitations....

End the limitations, and BAN THEM OUTRIGHT on public property. Does anyone actually think those signs do one bit of good? Because when one sign goes up, 80 follow. And what public good do they do? Do they educate? Advance issues? Nope.

Get rid of them.

Steve  Dosh's picture

. . JT , They are good for

. . JT , They are good for lighting bar - b - cues with . soak 'em in kerosene , etc. h t h /s Steve

FRANK EARLEY's picture

I still say....

Political signs, a reassuring indicator of democracy at work, they are pollution, I still say, give me a sharp right hand turn, and a 53' trailer, we'll see how reassuring they are.....

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