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Fiscal court considers restrictions on campaign signs

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Law would regulate time signs can be displayed

By Ben Carlson

Putting a campaign sign in your yard more than 45 days before an election could get you warned and fined up to $250 if an ordinance being considered by the Anderson County Fiscal Court is approved.
The measure passed on first reading last Tuesday by a 4-3 margin, and is likely to be voted on for a final time when the fiscal court meets next Tuesday night.

Judge-Executive John Wayne Conway introduced the ordinance after he said a person approached him following last fall’s election to complain about campaign signs.
Conway was joined by magistrates Juretta Wells, David Montgomery and Forrest Dale Stevens in voting for the ordinance. Voting against were magistrates David Ruggles, Buddy Sims and Kenny Barnett.
Conway defended his vote, saying the public has plenty of options when it comes to finding out who is running for office each year.
“Forty-five days is long enough for the signs,” he said. “There are other ways to get your name out there, including advertising in The Anderson News.”
During the meeting, Conway pointed out that Gabe Uebel’s campaign signs for property value administrator are still visible on Highway 62 near Powell Taylor Road, and said he doesn’t understand why they haven’t been removed.
Several attempts to reach Uebel on Tuesday were unsuccessful.
Conway said his own campaign last fall placed signs well before the May primary.
“I was guilty of it,” he said. “I had signs out March 1, and I hated it.”
Magistrate Ruggles said the reason people are agitated about campaign signs is because they are “fed up” with politicians.
“When people say they don’t like the signs, what they are really saying is they don’t like politicians,” Ruggles said.
He then questioned the difference between real estate for sale signs sitting in yards for months on end and campaign signs.
County Attorney Bobbi Jo Lewis pointed out that one is delivering a commerce message, the other asking for a vote. She added that other communities already have this ordinance, and that it has passed legal muster in the courts.
Magistrate Sims questioned the need for the ordinance.
“I’m not sure we don’t have anything better to do than ride up and down the roads looking for election signs,” Sims said.
Magistrate Barnett agreed with Sims, and added, “People have the right to put them out there.”
“This pretty much gives them that right,” responded Conway.
Those found in violation of the ordinance would receive a warning, telling them they have 10 days to remove the sign. If they don’t, they can be prosecuted and fined up to $250 per day.
The county’s code enforcement office will enforce the ordinance, Lewis said.