Sign wielders asked to limit politicking to private property
It’s the time of year when the politically minded often wear their party allegiances on their sleeves.That’s fine, say Glenwood Springs city officials, but just keep the election signs off public property.This request is rankling one local Democrat, Dean Moffatt. The city recently had him remove such signs from the city-owned curb lawn outside his architectural office on Blake Avenue downtown.The signs are for Democratic candidates Bill Ritter (running for governor), and Trési Houpt and Georgia Chamberlain (seeking re-election as Garfield County commissioner and treasurer, respectively).Moffatt said he’s lived in Glenwood Springs 36 years, and has talked over the issue with old-timers going back even further. “There have been political yard signs on the parking strips since we’ve had streets,” he said.Police chief Terry Wilson said signs on public right of way are prohibited by the city code. But he said a “gentlemen’s agreement” has allowed an exception to the rule in the old part of town, probably due to tradition and the small private yards of some downtown properties.
Now the city is enforcing the restrictions regarding political signs downtown as well.”Part of the reason is the last couple of elections, we just got pounded with those signs everywhere,” he said.He said the city asked Moffatt to remove his signs from the right of way after someone raised the issue with a City Council member.But Moffatt wonders, “Are we singling out political yard signs or are we going for all signs that are on public property?”He sees a plethora of signs on public rights of way advertising businesses, yard sales and properties for sale.Moffatt’s signs were back on his curb lawn Tuesday, and he’s tempted to leave them up, and challenge the city to enforce the rules for everyone if it gives him a ticket. But he also wonders if the public would support such a widespread crackdown.City officials say they don’t want to be ticketing anyone, but are trying to educate people and get them to comply with the code as it applies to all signs on public rights of way – not just political ones. Signs are prohibited in those areas unless permission is granted by City Council or the city manager.Wilson said political sign violations are getting attention now because it’s the election season, but they’re not the only target of enforcement.
“We’re always battling the yard sale thing … yard sales and real estate signs,” he said.Where police have applied the code to political signs before, “I’ve had both sides threatening to sue me for pulling signs out of city right of way,” Wilson said.Mayor Bruce Christensen said he doesn’t know if council will consider changing its code as it applies to political signs, and he has mixed feelings about the issue. He described election signs as “a rite of fall” along Blake Avenue and other Glenwood streets, but also notes that if they can be placed on public property, there’s nothing to stop political opponents from putting theirs up there was well.Moffatt, while agreeing that Christensen has a point, notes that property owners are required to maintain the grass on curb lawns, which could provide a means of dealing with signs placed by the opposition.”One could say, ‘I had to cut the grass, I just didn’t put the sign back,'” he said.City manager Jeff Hecksel said the same restrictions regarding political signs are common in other towns where he was worked. He said it’s a mostly a safety issue, particularly where signs are placed on corners, obscuring the views of motorists at intersections.
The rule isn’t an attempt to thwart political viewpoints, Hecksel said.Council member Dave Merritt said he thinks the signs should continue to be allowed only on private property.”Otherwise it just leads to problems with signs going everywhere that people can’t control,” he said.Wilson said part of the problem with political and yard sale signs is that people are a lot less motivated to take them down than to put them up.”Personally I don’t want to be out collecting them and hauling them to the dump,” he said.Contact Dennis Webb: 945-8515, ext. email@example.com
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