In the next few weeks, the village will begin identifying five village-owned properties where candidates can place campaign signs two weeks prior to an election, similar to a policy already in place in Wellington.
“It irritates me that people just throw their signs up without asking permission,” said Councilman David Swift, referring to what he said took place during the March election. “People just threw (signs) in the ground and asked questions later.”
Candidates often broker deals with property owners to place signs on their land, which Swift said gives incumbents an unfair advantage.
“If you’ve been around for a while, you know some of the large land owners and you can get permission to put (signs) on their property,” Swift said. “A challenger may or may not have that kind of relationship.”
Having village-owned property designated specifically for campaign signs, Swift said, is a more “rational” way to display signs and prevents a “free-for-all.”
“Everybody has the same opportunity,” Swift said. “The village may also find more … people who want to run for office (because) this would make it easier and hopefully less expensive.”
Previously, candidates were allowed to place signs 30 days prior to the election. But the council, at the May 2 meeting, unanimously agreed to change that time frame to two weeks. Candidates have 10 days to remove their signs after the election.
Before updating the code, Village Attorney Brad Biggs advised the council to tread lightly as to avoid trampling on First Amendment and freedom of speech rights.
“You don’t want to abridge or effect that type of speech in the village,” Biggs said. “It is the most protected form of public speech.”
To that end, the village said signs will not be allowed at a park entrance or any other location where there is a normal assembly and discussion of public affairs.
The council asked staff to bring back recommendations on where signs can be placed. Village Manager Ray Liggins said staff will be scouting village-owned parcels that look like government properties and have sufficient room to display campaign signs.