Officials in Alfred, Lewiston and Farmington have “decided” not to enforce municipal bans on political signs on private property?
How nice. Especially since any enforcement of such a ban might very well be a violation of a property owner's First Amendment right to free speech.
Makes a person wonder how any such ordinance ever came to be on the books in the first place, since our national right to free speech was enacted before any local ordinance was written.
Nonetheless, these three towns — and perhaps others — maintain ordinances banning political signs on certain public rights of way six weeks before any election.
These restrictions make sense when it comes to banning signs on public properties, like schools, cemeteries and parks, but the trouble with extending bans to public rights of way is that many of these "ways" fall on private property, including the front lawns of many living in dense neighborhoods. When a ban affects such a property, it silences an owner's right to free speech.
That’s not right and, in Lewiston, legislative Republican candidate Tim Lajoie was right to cry foul.
We tire of political signs quickly (especially when campaigns fail to remove signs after Election Day), but they serve a useful purpose for candidates seeking elective office who want to — and need to — be heard. As we sit in our cars at red lights, we can "hear" a candidate's platform posted on a sign, an essential part of any campaign's success to win voter support.
No one would suggest our lawns should be peppered with them year-round. However, early September doesn’t seem terribly early to have signs popping up on private lawns since campaigns have been in full swing for months (maybe even years), political advertising floods airwaves and cyperspace, and robocalls are being made in earnest.
Ready or not, the race toward Election Day is on.
We urge property owners to use some restraint, though, in posting signs on private property that falls in public rights of way – especially close to the road or near corners where motorists need to maintain visibility for safety.
The ACLU opposes government ordinances that restrict number, size or duration of posted political signs unless an ordinance is narrowly tailored to serve a compelling government interest, so it would be fair to think government could, and probably should, restrict signs that endanger public safety by interfering with traffic.
But, otherwise, we — each and every one of us — have a constitutional right to speak in support of our political perspectives and chosen candidates. We have the freedom to exercise expression and to choose our elected officials.
Be proud of that and protect it.
It's the envy of the world.
The Oxford County Fair will wrap up a half-week’s worth of exhibits, contests and food with a performance tonight by country and pop star Leann Rimes. If you haven’t already purchased your $5 concert ticket, there’s still time.
An anonymous donor has picked up the lion’s share of the Grammy winner’s fee, to keep the ticket fares low, and fair organizers are expecting such a large crowd that several nearby fields have been set up to accommodate overflow parking. It'll be a terrific end to this year's fair.
On Sunday afternoon, the Farmington Fair will open up and, on Sept. 30, gates will open for the always-anticipated Fryeburg Fair. That fair ends Oct. 7 – less than a month away – closing the 2012 fair season.
If you haven’t already been to a fair this year, make a point to do that. Fairs are about fried foods and midway rides, but they’re also about celebrating and supporting Maine’s agricultural heritage, past and present.
Maine’s fairs are about Maine people and are about as down home as one can get. Go and be part of that.
The opinions expressed in this column reflect the views of the ownership and the editorial board.