Should the City of Gulfport limit the amount of political signs you can put on your property?
- Councilor Dan Liedtke says "no."
- Vice Mayor Sam Henderson says he's "ok" with the current ordinance if it's constitutional.
- Councilor Jennifer Salmon says she's concerned about yards looking "junky" if there were no limit.
- Mayor Mike Yakes says owners have to have "some sort of right."
City leaders discussed possible changes to the ordinance during their workshop on Thursday, July 19.
The discussion was prompted by Liedtke's request to review and revise parts of the ordinance.
“This town bends over backwards for liberties and freedoms and I think we should continue to do that,” Councilor Dan Liedtke said.
He believes the statute is unconstitutional because it only allows one political sign per ballot item or candidate on any property.
“My position is we cannot limit the number of signs by candidate or ballot measure, I think we can only limit the size and square footage.” Liedtke added.
"I’m sympathetic to Dan's position about multiple signs. [but] it could end up being junky,” Salmon said.
"If it’s constitutional, I’m good with it as it is," Henderson said.
Liedtke brought up a case in Arlington County that he says resulted in a 3-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals invalidating a county law that imposed a 2 sign limit. The case is Arlington County Republican Committee v. Arlington County (1992).
Attorney Andrew Salzman said he would look into the case.
“The whole idea here is to bring us into conformity so that we don’t have any challenges and we avoid litigation," Salzman said.
City Attorney Andrew Salzman will conduct an analysis over whether or not the city could restrict the number of signs. He will bring it back for review during the next City Council Workshop on Thursday, August 16 at 3:30 p.m. at Gulfport City Hall.
Editor's Note: Councilor Barbara Banno was not present at the workshop.
Is the current ordinance constitutional?
The issue of whether or not the ordinance is constitutional was first brought up during this year's municipal elections. During his campaign Liedtke believed the ordinance violated people's First Amendment rights.
Dan Liedtke's attorney David Schauer if the city were to enforce the ordinance because he stated it was unconstitutional. Salzman stated that the city hadn't removed any signs from private property and that the ordinance was constitutional. ()
Section 22-17.09 Gulfport City Code:
"Signs which identify political campaigns, candidates or issues in which city residents are eligible to vote and other information pertinent thereto (hereinafter referred to as "political signs"). Political signs shall be confined within private property, shall not be erected in excess of sixty (60) days prior to the election to which they pertain and shall be removed within seven (7) days after the election to which they pertain. The candidates, the person or organization posting such signs, or the owner of the property on which the same are located shall remove all political signs. No more than one (1) political sign per ballot item or candidate shall be allowed on any property. The provisions of subsection (c) hereof shall not be applied to limit the number of allowed political signs, nor shall the number of political signs allowed pursuant to this paragraph limit the number of other temporary signs allowed under subsection (c). No unattended political signs shall be allowed on any property used as a polling place on the date of the election; and"