When it comes to putting up election signs, the City of St. John’s has strict bylaws about where and when signs can be put up, which candidates are required to adhere to.
City bylaws state the election signs cannot be within 20 metres of signalized intersections or within 15 metres of intersections without traffic lights, as well as roadways defined in the Highway Traffic Act and “road surfaces that include paved or gravel shoulders, centre medians, traffic islands or traffic circles.”
Signs also cannot be placed on city property — including buildings and parks — or on private property without the express permission of the property owner.
“Any candidates that have come forward to me … have been given the candidates’ handbook and are fully aware of the sign bylaws,” says Emily Chafe, election co-ordinator for the City of St. John’s.
“It would be inappropriate for election signs to be on city property because it would appear the city is endorsing one candidate over another,” Chafe explains about why candidates cannot post election signs on city property.
The primary concern of the city is that signs do not create a safety risk by obstructing pedestrians or the sight-lines of drivers, as did a sign that was moved from Columbus Drive on Friday.
Signs are removed on a complaint basis and city officials have been busy dealing with complaints since signs were permitted to go up on Friday. All complaints are referred to the inspection division, which confirms if the placement of a sign does indeed break the law. If it does, the candidate will either be notified to remove the sign within a limited window of time or, if the sign poses a particular hazard, the city will remove it immediately.
“It is not always clear to candidates what is and isn’t allowed and they have been very good about taking them down,” Chafe says about signs that have been brought to the attention of city inspectors thus far.
Art Puddister, one of the candidates whose signs were complained about, says, “we’re in the process of having them moved back … but it’s going to take a few days.”
Puddister says his volunteers did not believe the signs were violating bylaws when they were erected.
Walter Harding, a Ward 3 candidate, expressed his concern about the placement of election signs and the potential safety hazard they present.
“It comes to people’s safety as opposed to some people’s selfishness,” he says about signs he has seen placed too close to crosswalks and intersections.
Harding’s main concern is about the safety of pedestrians and cyclists who might not be visible to motorists because of large signs.
“What I want to see is that people just follow the bylaws,” says Harding, adding that he is concerned candidates are not following the guidelines provided to them when they entered the race. “I don’t bring this up because I’m a candidate. I bring this up because I’m a citizen and a cyclist and a motorist.”
Elections signs are expensive, and Harding says signs are inhibitive to candidates who would run, but cannot afford the fees for publicizing their campaign.
Anyone concerned about the placement of an election sign can notify the city by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 311.