Political signs run afoul of Paris ordinance

PARIS — As the campaign season has ramped up, the signs for candidates and issues have grown more dense, covering yards, parks and islands.

Tony Reaves/Sun Journal

Campaign signs at the corner of High and Nichol streets in Paris violate the town's sign ordinance, which voters passed last year. Police and town officials have removed the signs, but they keep returning.

In Paris, though, signs aren't welcome in some places. The town's sign ordinance, which voters passed in 2011, bars signs in Moore Park, Billings Dam Park and on traffic islands, unless they get permission from selectmen.

Acting Town Manager Elizabeth Knox said the ordinance is new and not everyone seems to know about it.

“Nobody's really been pushed to have it enforced,” she said. Starting in the summer when signs for board of selectmen elections first appeared, Knox has spent her own time removing signs, riding around with her husband on Fridays and Saturdays.

"I enforced it, even though it wasn't really my job.”

She said Paris police have removed signs as well. She's even contacted the political parties to inform them of the ordinance.

“I have contacted the Republican and Democratic parties,” she said. “Whether they have gone down through their channels, I don't know.”

Paris police Chief David Verrier said police take down the signs and bring them to the town office so that the office staff can call candidates and explain the ordinance. However, Paris officers are busy, and Verrier said the ordinance doesn't take high priority.

“If it's interfering with someone's vision for driving, we'll immediately take them down,” Verrier said. “They're not supposed to be in the islands. That's the biggest thing.”

Knox said that while candidates can request to place their signs on islands and public property, the only request for signage so far has been by Safe Voices, to post a sign in Moore Park.

According to the ordinance, police or anyone authorized by the town manager can remove signs in protected areas and dispose of them. It also allows selectmen to levy fines of between $5 and $500 for violators, but so far the board hasn't taken that step.

treaves@sunjournal.com

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Comments

Bob Woodbury's picture

I'll bet...

...these people DO know it's illegal to put signs there. They're hoping either no one will take them down or, if they do, get tired of taking them down. What they don't realize is these signs are more irritating than informative. I asked my elected representative to introduce a bill making it illegal to have signs within 2000 yards of a polling place on voting day only. Do politicians really believe people who haven't made up their minds by voting day will be influenced by a sign? I sincerely hope not. Despite the fact I wanted this to be a state-wide law, she told me to speak with my town government. Obviously she knew the people who would need to pass that law wouldn't, as it's their signs. The town manager then went to the Maine Municipal Association, who told him that kind of law would be infringing on the sign people's freedom of speech. I would guess, from my experience, Paris' law is illegal. My other pet peeve is politicians at the polls who want to shake my hand and be my friend for five minutes, then want me to go away and leave them alone. Between the signs and the politicians, I have voted early, at the town offices, the last two years.

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