Signs, signs, everywhere there's signs

Deana Stokes Sullivan
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Politics

It might be a sign of the times - St. John's city councillors appear to be rethinking the use of election signs, considering the hazards they pose, the vandalism they can become targets of and the adverse effects they have on the environment.

At a council meeting Monday night, Coun. Art Puddister, chairman of the police and traffic committee, sparked a debate on the pros and cons of signs.

St. John's Coun. Art Puddister (right), chairman of the police and traffic committee, addresses some issues about election signs at the regular St. John's city council meeting Monday evening. At left is Coun. Frank Galgay. - Photo by Keith Gosse/The Teleg

It might be a sign of the times - St. John's city councillors appear to be rethinking the use of election signs, considering the hazards they pose, the vandalism they can become targets of and the adverse effects they have on the environment.

At a council meeting Monday night, Coun. Art Puddister, chairman of the police and traffic committee, sparked a debate on the pros and cons of signs.

He said the issue was recently discussed at a committee meeting, where it was noted that signs not in compliance with the city's guidelines or posing a safety risk to drivers or pedestrians will be removed.

Puddister said he inquired about the reasons for removing signs at intersections and was told by the city's transportation engineer that signs can be distracting to drivers or cause a sight-distance problem and, as a result, pose a hazard to drivers.

He said all candidates were provided with a copy of the guidelines when they filed their nomination papers, but it might be a good idea to advertise the guidelines prior to the next municipal election because many candidates have signs up before they file their nomination papers.

Coun. Keith Coombs suggested it's probably the right time for a committee to be struck to review the issue.

"We've had signs vandalized. We lose them and they blow around in the wind," he added, noting that his son, while driving recently in high winds, witnessed a sign hit a car in front of him.

Coombs said election signs are also "environmentally unfriendly" because the wood lasts for years and can become litter, with the exception of some that are reused, for example, as wallboard in a cabin.

Coun. Sandy Hickman provided an example of a sign becoming litter. He said he noticed an old Marie White sign, from the 2008 mayoral election, last week in a ditch in Southlands.

Mayor Dennis O'Keefe pointed out the city does have a sign bylaw committee.

But Coun. Shannie Duff said she'd like to see an ad hoc committee established prior to the next municipal election to look at the question of signs.

"It is the single biggest hassle we've had," she said, while also pointing out that signs are one of the more cost-effective means of advertising for a new council candidate.

Duff said any election signage rules the city adopts would also apply to provincial and federal elections.

Coun. Tom Hann said a designated area where signs could be erected might be an option.

Coun. Gerry Colbert said the city should research the legalities of the issue, because he was told some time ago there was a Newfoundland Supreme Court ruling on election signs, which deemed them to fall under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Colbert said he was told municipalities had to permit them on public property as long as they don't impede visibility for drivers or pose a hazard.

Coun. Wally Collins said he believes there should be a 30-day limit for signs.

With the St. John's municipal election only a week away, any changes to the city's sign bylaws will have to be a topic for the next city council and the municipal candidates four years from now.

dss@thetelegram.com

Organizations: Rights

Geographic location: St. John's, Southlands

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Recent comments

  • Ryan
    July 02, 2010 - 13:34

    The amount of signs in this election seems absurd. Is it not contridictory that the same people who advocate environmentalism will spend countless dollars to put their name out there. I believe the argument that putting signs out to inform is a cop-out!

    Be innovative find new ways to do things. Using the same schemes to get votes will lead the same people in power and the same problems.

    As a voter I find it insulting to drive down a road and see repeated signs for the same people .. as if I didn't see it the first 6 times! I make decisions based on merit not who can afford to put their face all over town! If you think painting your name on every street corner means you deserve the position then same on you.

    Kudos to candidates like Mr. Harvey who are at least trying to get their voice heard without relying on the same old money and the same old plan.

  • Brink
    July 02, 2010 - 13:31

    Stan Darsh is a Genious. I think he should run for mayor...I like your phone in, this is my stand message system.

  • Calvin
    July 02, 2010 - 13:30

    You hit the nail on the head Jack. If Jiffy had to take down their beetle (which was, believe it or not, a part of the tourism industry on the Avalon Peninsula) how are potential public servants allowed to get away with it? I say fine them the same as if the Jiffy Cab owner had left the beetle where it was. Or provide stricter guidelines on signage. There are places in the city where the same mayoral candidate has a small sign placed on the side of the road at 30 foot intervals for about 200 feet!!! How is this OK? And to the candidates I ask, do you think the populace is stupid enough to succumb to repetetive ad's? I give most of us a little more credit than that. Ad's in the Telegram would be more effective than these stupid road signs.

  • Bones II
    July 02, 2010 - 13:27

    Does anybody really cast their vote based on a sign they've seen? Is Mr. Coombs suggesting that wood is environmentally unfriendly and expecting anyone with a grain to accept that? The forests is full of decaying wood and we have a great deal of forested area. It's not doing the forest or the environment any harm. They may certainly be messy, but they are not 'environmentally unfriendly' if constructed of wood.

    It would serve Ms. Duff to realize that WATER is the single, biggest hassle of the RESIDENTS she expresses so much interest in working for. We do not care about the troubles a running politician is having with signage, most of us can barely stand it anyway. THINK WATER! The city is paid very well every year for this basic service.

    Mr. Colbert may be correct, but do we, as citizens hold any right to remove these under the same charter he mentions?


    Politicking at its best, I tell ya, lol.

  • donald
    July 02, 2010 - 13:25

    dave from st.john's.You are an absolute jerk. Whaever you might think personally,is no reason to publicly denounce those running for public office in such an offensive manner. You probably don't even know either of them.Next time you want to criticize, why not do so in a helpful way rather than run off at the lip.

  • Scott
    July 02, 2010 - 13:24

    Hi. I am a candidate in Ward2 as well and I agree there are too many signs. As I expressed in this space last week as well as through an email to all candidates and to various members of the media, we need to seriously limit the number of signs that a candidate can erect and limit where they can be erected to a small number of specific locations.

    By doing this, we not only level the playing field for all candidates but we greatly reduce the amount of garbage we are left with once the campaign is over.

    Like it or not signs do make a difference in terms of candidate exposure. When competing with incumbants or more well-funded campaigns it is often difficult to get noticed. In order to fight the perception that you are not in the game, you need to match the other campaigns with signage and then ultimately, the proliferation is on. The result is the mess we see around the city today.

    It's nice to see Council start to talk about this issue but remember where these ideas are coming from. This is why we need change.

    Scott Fitzgerald
    Candidate for Ward 2

  • Jack
    July 02, 2010 - 13:22

    Didn't the province make a big deal this spring/summer about removing all the unauthorized signage from our roads? If business owners aren't allowed to put up a couple signs to direct traffic to their businesses then how can we justify letting politicians and wannabe politicians slap up 1000s of plastic signs on sticks all over the province? It seems hypocritical to me.

  • Elizabeth
    July 02, 2010 - 13:22

    I agree with Jack. Not only are these signs unnecessary, they make the cities look very untidy. I drove down Smallwood drive the other day and next to every single light pole was a sign!!! The signs do not make me want to vote for somebody more or less I say that there should be restricted bust areas where signage can go up and if the rules are broken then the councilors should pay the prices.

  • Nasty
    July 02, 2010 - 13:21

    Coun. Sandy Hickman provided an example of a sign becoming litter. He said he noticed an old Marie White sign, from the 2008 mayoral election, last week in a ditch in Southlands.

    That's nothing. Fabian Manning still has signs up on the causeway in Bscay Bay from his last loss.

    Either way I will be getting out of the city. Too much of nothing going on except an increase to taxes and the daily crying sessions at City Hall. Time for everyone to relocate to the other side of the overpass. Lets see how St. Johns will do then.

  • Robert
    July 02, 2010 - 13:20

    I totally agree with Jack on this one.

    In these most difficult times government saw it as a good thing to have very small businesses take down their roadside signage. And for many I expect the cost to put something approved back is just too much at this time. So we have little or no signage at all; bet the lost tourist enjoyed that!

    And yet in the name of democracy any wannabe politician can put up signage it would seem anywhere.

    I just hope that all the losers have at least the moral fibre to make sure ALL of their signs are removed when this is over!!

  • Matt
    July 02, 2010 - 13:19

    FINALLY, they're going to do something about these public nuisances. Driving around the city, I've noted several places where these signs block line of sight at intersections. Not to mention that they're complete eyesores.

    Get rid of 'em!

  • Donna
    July 02, 2010 - 13:18

    My interest in the municipal election is not, I suppose, as keen as it should be. However, I bore easily listening to the same old promises and rhetoric. However, the signage placement has been a sore point for me. As undemocratic as it may sound, anyone who has shoved a sign down into the beautiful flower boxes that cost the taxpayers money and city workers time and planning, will not be getting my vote. I expect my municipal council to have more respect for the beauty of the city, the employees that make it happen and the taxpayers who pay to make it so.

  • Sihackpunjacpinnawong
    July 02, 2010 - 13:18

    Leave the signs alone...lipgrant in the fall so a few can get the pogie by'e

  • Stan
    July 02, 2010 - 13:17

    nobody needs these signs. it's a waste of money and wood which could be used for better purposes. Maybe people shouldn't be doing so much reading while driving. Very distracting! Maybe a giant billboard on the different malls parking lots with everyone who's running for anything on it. An even better idea would be to have a phone line with an automated listing of everyone who is running in upcoming elections for that year. In that case, each person who is running can record their own voice message for the voters to hear.

  • Andrew
    July 02, 2010 - 13:17

    Hey Jack,
    My name is Andrew Harvey, and I am running for Ward 2 Councillor.
    You are absolutely right,
    These signs are illegally using public space, and all the candidates running in this election were urged and encouraged to remove their signs by myself, and candidate for Mayor Mark Wilson.
    These Council members, and candidates are all very aware that what they are doing is illegal, and you are exactly right to call it hypocritical. How do these members and candidates expect citizens to follow bylaws enacted by them when they themselves are blatantly breaking the election signage bylaw?

  • Dave
    July 02, 2010 - 13:16

    Signs are definitely a nuisance. The unfortunate thing is that there are less and less ways, these days, to inform a broad audience that you're even running.

    You might think everyone listens to open line or watches one of the news hours on TV. But more and more people only watch their favourite cable channels or only use the Internet. People can choose what they see and hear, and that might not include anything from their own city.

    Democracy works when the people affected are informed. Signs, as ugly as they are, inform the most people that there is an election going on. They can then choose another medium to find out what the candidates stand for (websites, radio, whatever).

    I think maybe we should restrict the signs to a few designated high-traffic areas, have them posted securely by city workers, and let citizens post the signs on their own property (windows, fences, etc).

  • Brian
    July 02, 2010 - 13:15

    Look at traffic light at Ruby Line and Nolan
    drive heading into Southlands. The pole with
    light opposite Ruby line surrounded by large
    election signs. How can you see the light, what
    a distraction. Our politicians put them there!!!
    Who's looking out for this city and its residents. The only thing they try to look after is themselves. Get the signs down or moved
    from this area NOW!!!!

  • g-man
    July 02, 2010 - 13:13

    i hope the people are reading the true message here..this incumbant council are like a crowd of babies..thats the reason we should be turfing these guys out.this council cant even agree with signage.this is just a tastes of whats to come...throw all these incunbant bums out.pud man(puddister)should be the first to go.what a sooook !!!

  • dan
    July 02, 2010 - 13:12

    Signs, Signs. A simple solution. 1) designate,in the candidates instruction package, specifically and only where sign's may be placed and the number per candidate. 2) Where signs are not removed within 48 hours after election day, then have the city remove them and charge the successful or unsuccessful candidate a removal fee of so much per sign.
    Maybe the designated areas could be located in the woods at least 2 km. from the nearest roadway.

  • Get on
    July 02, 2010 - 13:10

    When will the RNC hand out tickets for litter? That's the question. Do your dam job and fine these polluters TODAY otherwise you all might as well call in sick since you are performing selective policing and not representing the population you swore to serve.

    I hope to god Wilson get's in so he can make you people work for your pay for a change.

  • Dave
    July 02, 2010 - 13:08

    Never mind what's written in the article, just look at the picture of Puddister and Galgay. I'm not sure which word is more appropriate - clueless or useless.

  • donald
    July 02, 2010 - 13:08

    The water ban has been a major topic all summer.It's primary effect relates to watering lawns and washing cars etc. l'am sure the city is aware of the daily water consumption rate and can tell if there is an unusually high (or low) usage taking place. l have not heard any prospective or sitting councillor talk about the high water usage rate and waste that takes place INSIDE the home. Since the city can monitor water rates (total daily usage) then why can't the city say OK taxpayers we won't curtail outside water usage-providing you,as users, try an compensate by cutting down on some of the excess use of water inside the home. In other words let us as responsible citizens try to help,rather than having the present by-law imposed on us. The city monitoring process can determine whether this suggerstion is working or not. Why not try it, if it does not work, then we deserve to have a ban imposed on us.
    Come on prospective councillors pick it up and make an isuue of it.

  • Ryan
    July 01, 2010 - 20:24

    The amount of signs in this election seems absurd. Is it not contridictory that the same people who advocate environmentalism will spend countless dollars to put their name out there. I believe the argument that putting signs out to inform is a cop-out!

    Be innovative find new ways to do things. Using the same schemes to get votes will lead the same people in power and the same problems.

    As a voter I find it insulting to drive down a road and see repeated signs for the same people .. as if I didn't see it the first 6 times! I make decisions based on merit not who can afford to put their face all over town! If you think painting your name on every street corner means you deserve the position then same on you.

    Kudos to candidates like Mr. Harvey who are at least trying to get their voice heard without relying on the same old money and the same old plan.

  • Brink
    July 01, 2010 - 20:20

    Stan Darsh is a Genious. I think he should run for mayor...I like your phone in, this is my stand message system.

  • Calvin
    July 01, 2010 - 20:18

    You hit the nail on the head Jack. If Jiffy had to take down their beetle (which was, believe it or not, a part of the tourism industry on the Avalon Peninsula) how are potential public servants allowed to get away with it? I say fine them the same as if the Jiffy Cab owner had left the beetle where it was. Or provide stricter guidelines on signage. There are places in the city where the same mayoral candidate has a small sign placed on the side of the road at 30 foot intervals for about 200 feet!!! How is this OK? And to the candidates I ask, do you think the populace is stupid enough to succumb to repetetive ad's? I give most of us a little more credit than that. Ad's in the Telegram would be more effective than these stupid road signs.

  • Bones II
    July 01, 2010 - 20:15

    Does anybody really cast their vote based on a sign they've seen? Is Mr. Coombs suggesting that wood is environmentally unfriendly and expecting anyone with a grain to accept that? The forests is full of decaying wood and we have a great deal of forested area. It's not doing the forest or the environment any harm. They may certainly be messy, but they are not 'environmentally unfriendly' if constructed of wood.

    It would serve Ms. Duff to realize that WATER is the single, biggest hassle of the RESIDENTS she expresses so much interest in working for. We do not care about the troubles a running politician is having with signage, most of us can barely stand it anyway. THINK WATER! The city is paid very well every year for this basic service.

    Mr. Colbert may be correct, but do we, as citizens hold any right to remove these under the same charter he mentions?


    Politicking at its best, I tell ya, lol.

  • donald
    July 01, 2010 - 20:12

    dave from st.john's.You are an absolute jerk. Whaever you might think personally,is no reason to publicly denounce those running for public office in such an offensive manner. You probably don't even know either of them.Next time you want to criticize, why not do so in a helpful way rather than run off at the lip.

  • Scott
    July 01, 2010 - 20:09

    Hi. I am a candidate in Ward2 as well and I agree there are too many signs. As I expressed in this space last week as well as through an email to all candidates and to various members of the media, we need to seriously limit the number of signs that a candidate can erect and limit where they can be erected to a small number of specific locations.

    By doing this, we not only level the playing field for all candidates but we greatly reduce the amount of garbage we are left with once the campaign is over.

    Like it or not signs do make a difference in terms of candidate exposure. When competing with incumbants or more well-funded campaigns it is often difficult to get noticed. In order to fight the perception that you are not in the game, you need to match the other campaigns with signage and then ultimately, the proliferation is on. The result is the mess we see around the city today.

    It's nice to see Council start to talk about this issue but remember where these ideas are coming from. This is why we need change.

    Scott Fitzgerald
    Candidate for Ward 2

  • Jack
    July 01, 2010 - 20:07

    Didn't the province make a big deal this spring/summer about removing all the unauthorized signage from our roads? If business owners aren't allowed to put up a couple signs to direct traffic to their businesses then how can we justify letting politicians and wannabe politicians slap up 1000s of plastic signs on sticks all over the province? It seems hypocritical to me.

  • Elizabeth
    July 01, 2010 - 20:06

    I agree with Jack. Not only are these signs unnecessary, they make the cities look very untidy. I drove down Smallwood drive the other day and next to every single light pole was a sign!!! The signs do not make me want to vote for somebody more or less I say that there should be restricted bust areas where signage can go up and if the rules are broken then the councilors should pay the prices.

  • Nasty
    July 01, 2010 - 20:04

    Coun. Sandy Hickman provided an example of a sign becoming litter. He said he noticed an old Marie White sign, from the 2008 mayoral election, last week in a ditch in Southlands.

    That's nothing. Fabian Manning still has signs up on the causeway in Bscay Bay from his last loss.

    Either way I will be getting out of the city. Too much of nothing going on except an increase to taxes and the daily crying sessions at City Hall. Time for everyone to relocate to the other side of the overpass. Lets see how St. Johns will do then.

  • Robert
    July 01, 2010 - 20:03

    I totally agree with Jack on this one.

    In these most difficult times government saw it as a good thing to have very small businesses take down their roadside signage. And for many I expect the cost to put something approved back is just too much at this time. So we have little or no signage at all; bet the lost tourist enjoyed that!

    And yet in the name of democracy any wannabe politician can put up signage it would seem anywhere.

    I just hope that all the losers have at least the moral fibre to make sure ALL of their signs are removed when this is over!!

  • Matt
    July 01, 2010 - 20:01

    FINALLY, they're going to do something about these public nuisances. Driving around the city, I've noted several places where these signs block line of sight at intersections. Not to mention that they're complete eyesores.

    Get rid of 'em!

  • Donna
    July 01, 2010 - 20:00

    My interest in the municipal election is not, I suppose, as keen as it should be. However, I bore easily listening to the same old promises and rhetoric. However, the signage placement has been a sore point for me. As undemocratic as it may sound, anyone who has shoved a sign down into the beautiful flower boxes that cost the taxpayers money and city workers time and planning, will not be getting my vote. I expect my municipal council to have more respect for the beauty of the city, the employees that make it happen and the taxpayers who pay to make it so.

  • Sihackpunjacpinnawong
    July 01, 2010 - 19:59

    Leave the signs alone...lipgrant in the fall so a few can get the pogie by'e

  • Stan
    July 01, 2010 - 19:57

    nobody needs these signs. it's a waste of money and wood which could be used for better purposes. Maybe people shouldn't be doing so much reading while driving. Very distracting! Maybe a giant billboard on the different malls parking lots with everyone who's running for anything on it. An even better idea would be to have a phone line with an automated listing of everyone who is running in upcoming elections for that year. In that case, each person who is running can record their own voice message for the voters to hear.

  • Andrew
    July 01, 2010 - 19:57

    Hey Jack,
    My name is Andrew Harvey, and I am running for Ward 2 Councillor.
    You are absolutely right,
    These signs are illegally using public space, and all the candidates running in this election were urged and encouraged to remove their signs by myself, and candidate for Mayor Mark Wilson.
    These Council members, and candidates are all very aware that what they are doing is illegal, and you are exactly right to call it hypocritical. How do these members and candidates expect citizens to follow bylaws enacted by them when they themselves are blatantly breaking the election signage bylaw?

  • Dave
    July 01, 2010 - 19:56

    Signs are definitely a nuisance. The unfortunate thing is that there are less and less ways, these days, to inform a broad audience that you're even running.

    You might think everyone listens to open line or watches one of the news hours on TV. But more and more people only watch their favourite cable channels or only use the Internet. People can choose what they see and hear, and that might not include anything from their own city.

    Democracy works when the people affected are informed. Signs, as ugly as they are, inform the most people that there is an election going on. They can then choose another medium to find out what the candidates stand for (websites, radio, whatever).

    I think maybe we should restrict the signs to a few designated high-traffic areas, have them posted securely by city workers, and let citizens post the signs on their own property (windows, fences, etc).

  • Brian
    July 01, 2010 - 19:54

    Look at traffic light at Ruby Line and Nolan
    drive heading into Southlands. The pole with
    light opposite Ruby line surrounded by large
    election signs. How can you see the light, what
    a distraction. Our politicians put them there!!!
    Who's looking out for this city and its residents. The only thing they try to look after is themselves. Get the signs down or moved
    from this area NOW!!!!

  • g-man
    July 01, 2010 - 19:52

    i hope the people are reading the true message here..this incumbant council are like a crowd of babies..thats the reason we should be turfing these guys out.this council cant even agree with signage.this is just a tastes of whats to come...throw all these incunbant bums out.pud man(puddister)should be the first to go.what a sooook !!!

  • dan
    July 01, 2010 - 19:49

    Signs, Signs. A simple solution. 1) designate,in the candidates instruction package, specifically and only where sign's may be placed and the number per candidate. 2) Where signs are not removed within 48 hours after election day, then have the city remove them and charge the successful or unsuccessful candidate a removal fee of so much per sign.
    Maybe the designated areas could be located in the woods at least 2 km. from the nearest roadway.

  • Get on
    July 01, 2010 - 19:46

    When will the RNC hand out tickets for litter? That's the question. Do your dam job and fine these polluters TODAY otherwise you all might as well call in sick since you are performing selective policing and not representing the population you swore to serve.

    I hope to god Wilson get's in so he can make you people work for your pay for a change.

  • Dave
    July 01, 2010 - 19:43

    Never mind what's written in the article, just look at the picture of Puddister and Galgay. I'm not sure which word is more appropriate - clueless or useless.

  • donald
    July 01, 2010 - 19:43

    The water ban has been a major topic all summer.It's primary effect relates to watering lawns and washing cars etc. l'am sure the city is aware of the daily water consumption rate and can tell if there is an unusually high (or low) usage taking place. l have not heard any prospective or sitting councillor talk about the high water usage rate and waste that takes place INSIDE the home. Since the city can monitor water rates (total daily usage) then why can't the city say OK taxpayers we won't curtail outside water usage-providing you,as users, try an compensate by cutting down on some of the excess use of water inside the home. In other words let us as responsible citizens try to help,rather than having the present by-law imposed on us. The city monitoring process can determine whether this suggerstion is working or not. Why not try it, if it does not work, then we deserve to have a ban imposed on us.
    Come on prospective councillors pick it up and make an isuue of it.