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Political Signs Limits Lifted

Gulfport City Council members unanimously approved changes to the political sign ordinance.

Who has your vote for Gulfport Mayor? If you know who you're supporting, you can put up political signs starting today under the new changes to the city's ordinance.

Gulfport city leaders voted 4 - 0 during second reading to make three major changes to the current ordinance regarding political signs. Gulfport Mayor Mike Yakes was not present and planned to miss the meeting.

The three changes will allow the following:

  1. Signs will be allowed anytime prior to an election. The prior ordinance prohibited signs placed on properties more than 60 days before an election. The next election is on Tuesday, March 13, 2012, more than 80 days away.
  2. Signs will be allowed on properties used as polling places. They no longer have to be accompanied by a person.
  3. More than one sign per ballot issue or candidate will be allowed on the same property. The amendment to the ordinance allows signs for opposing positions/candidates on the same property.

"I will say, that I was happy that we fixed this because we have addressed the fact that if you have voters in the same household with a difference in opinion, you get to be represented in your yard," Vice Mayor Sam Henderson said before the unanimous vote Tuesday night.

Technically, the changes will allow up to three signs per property; one in support, one in opposition and one that shows no decision in regards to that specific issue according to Gulfport City Attorney Andy Salzman. Salzman previously stated, in a previous Patch story, the intent is to maintain the city's value in aesthetics and safety while trying not to limit people's rights.

Below is an excerpt from Section 22-17.09 Gulfport City Code:

No more than one (1) political sign per ballot item or candidate shall be allowed on any property.

The approved amendment looks like this:

No more than one (1) political sign per ballot issue, candidate, and position shall be allowed on any property.

Previously, residents could only put up one sign per ballot item or candidate on their property. Ward 4 Council Member Dan Leidtke spearheaded the effort to change that because he felt it was violating people's freedom of speech.

Questioning Constitutional Rights

The issue of whether or not the ordinance is constitutional was first brought up during last year's municipal elections. During his campaign Dan Liedtke believed the ordinance violated people's First Amendment rights.

Dan Liedtke's attorney David Schauer sent a letter to City Attorney Andy Salzman stating he would take legal action 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. (Both letters are attached to this article.)

Previous Ordinance:

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"

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