City fielding election sign complaints

Andrew Robinson
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Public works director says proximity to intersections a common call

The City of St. John’s is enforcing its bylaws and regulations surrounding the placement of candidate signs for the municipal election on a complaint basis, according to its director of public works.

As of early this week, those complaints were infrequent when compared to the number of calls the city was fielding two weeks prior.

“I spoke to the people in public works that actually go out and remove the signs, and their take on it was that initially, there was a regular stream of complaints when the signs first started going up a couple of weeks ago,” said Paul Mackey, the director of public works for St. John’s.

Mackey said information kits were distributed to candidates informing them of the rules pertaining to election signs. Even for experienced candidates who have run for city council in past elections, there are new bylaws to contend with.

Amendments were approved by council in June preventing the placement of signs near traffic lights or other signs with traffic commands. They also cannot be placed on medians, and candidates were prohibited this time around from erecting signs more than 60 days prior to election day on Sept. 24.

This year, the most common complaint fielded by the city involves signs that are placed too close to intersections.

“The reason for that is that these signs can be a distraction to motorists,” said Mackey. “That’s the biggest issue, because if you get a lot of signs around a particular intersection, the motorists lose sight of the stop sign or the traffic light, whatever the case may be, and it could be a safety (issue) for motorists or pedestrians.”

Even if a sign is the necessary distance from an intersection, the city may be forced to take it down if it prevents a motorist from spotting approaching traffic.

The city has also fielded complaints about the volume of signs posted in some areas.

“If you get a huge number in one area, it becomes a bigger distraction and a bigger safety issue.”

Most complaints have been relayed through the city’s 311 service. Those messages are forwarded to the traffic division, which sends staff out to investigate.

“If it is (illegally placed), it’s forwarded on to public works, and we have our regular traffic crews then deal with it,” said Mackey.

Under city bylaws, staff can remove signs found to be illegally placed and destroy them without notifying the owners of the signs.

Mackey has heard suggestions it is wasteful to use taxpayers’ dollars  to deal with complaints about election signage, but he said no additional staff are hired specifically for that purpose.

“We use our existing staff. Granted, it does take away from some of their daily duties on a short-term basis, but there’s no direct additional cost to the city.”

Twitter: @TeleAndrew

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Recent comments

  • Deposit
    September 05, 2013 - 08:32

    Candidates should have to make a deposit that is refunded after the signs are taken down ... by them!! Council workers should not be doing it. If you leave a sign up, no refund.

  • heather
    September 05, 2013 - 08:14

    Look around, there are election signs at EVERY intersection and on EVERY median in the city. It doesnt bother me per say, they're just trying to get themselves out there. But if your going to bother creating a bylaw regarding placement, you might as well enforce it?