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The Prescott Daily Courier | Prescott, Arizona

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6/27/2012 9:58:00 PM
Prescott considers creation of campaign sign-free zone
County must allow signs as well
PRESCOTT - The state law that requires cities like Prescott to allow campaign signs to be placed within their rights-of-way affects county land as well. Yavapai County Board of Supervisors Chairman Tom Thurman said the law, ARS 16-1019, creates a double standard. "It's ironic that the county and municipalities have to allow (signs on their rights-of-way), but the state does not. ADOT does not allow it" along state highways, he said. He pointed out that the law doesn't give people the right to create a hazard with signs. "If it creates a hindrance to the viewshed, for example, if it blocks a stop sign," or if people would be likely to trip over it, then it can be removed. Thurman also addressed an issue he said he'd been hearing complaints about: the timeframe in which campaign signs can be displayed. Although they are allowed 60 days before an election, he said, that date is Aug. 2, because that's when mail-in ballots go out - not Aug. 28, when the polls are open. For those who are unhappy with the proliferation of signs under the new law, Thurman said, "they're just going to have to deal with it. This is how people get elected."

Cindy Barks
The Daily Courier

PRESCOTT - The prospect of having campaign signs border the Courthouse Plaza in downtown Prescott did not sit well with the members of the Prescott City Council this week.

Even so, that scenario is possible, under a recently amended state statute that prohibits cities and towns from banning campaign signs on public rights-of-way.

In fact, unless the City Council approves a "campaign sign free zone" soon, candidates in the upcoming election could choose some of Prescott's prime tourism areas for their campaign signs.

The issue was the topic of discussion at Tuesday's council meeting. Although some members voiced support for the creation of a sign-free zone, the council took no action this week, and likely will consider the matter again on July 10.

Meanwhile, campaign signs have begun appearing on public land along city streets. And City Attorney Gary Kidd recommended that because the election season is already under way, the council should wait until after the November election to enact a sign-free zone.

"Right now, people are placing signs in accordance with what the legislation prescribes," Kidd told the council.

By waiting with sign restrictions until after the Nov. 6 election, Kidd said, "That way, we don't get into any issues of whether someone has a pre-existing right. It would keep the city clear from First Amendment rights (issues) or pre-existing rights (issues)."

Some support arose, however, for putting the sign-free zone into effect sooner. "I would like, at some point in the near future, to have this come back," Councilman Jim Lamerson said. "The longer this goes on, the more right you create for people..."

Prior to the amended statute, the city's code banned campaign signs in public rights-of-way. (Neither the city nor state law governs campaign signs on private property).

Community Development Director Tom Guice explained that the statute allows cities and towns to designate two campaign sign free areas, totaling not more than three square miles.

In May, the Prescott Unified Development Code Committee considered the creation of one or more campaign sign free zones along some of Prescott's major entry routes "to eliminate a concern that if uncontrolled signs will adversely affect tourism," according to a city memo.

Members of the Unified Development Code Committee recommended by consensus that the city should create a campaign sign free zone covering the core streets in the downtown and the main roadway corridors leading into the city.

Along with the city streets that surround the Courthouse Plaza, city officials also voiced concern about having campaign signs clutter the Veterans' Memorial Island between Sheldon and Gurley streets near the Highway 69/89 interchange.

Guice said the entire proposed sign-free area would amount to about 50 acres - well under the three square miles that the statute would allow for.

Under the sign-free zones, the city would prohibit the placement of signs within the parkways, landscaping, and sidewalks of the street rights-of-way.

Council members questioned the State Legislature's move to allow signs in public rights-of-way.

"I don't know what made the legislature think this is of great importance," Mayor Marlin Kuykendall said. "I don't think any of us have had a problem going to the private owners to get permission. I don't know why, except maybe it's the easy way out."

Craig Brown, a candidate for Yavapai County Board of Supervisors District 4, said he agreed with the council about the need for a sign-free zone, even though he noted that he was relying heavily on signs in his large district. "I happen to agree with you about keeping Prescott pristine," he said.

Because most city ordinances must wait 30 days to go into effect after getting approval, the council broached the possibility of using the emergency clause, which would make a sign-free zone ordinance effective immediately.

Kuykendall suggested that the council should have several options to choose from when the matter goes back for a possible vote on July 10.


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Reader Comments

Posted: Saturday, June 30, 2012
Article comment by: Keeping Prescott Pristine? HA!

I just have to chime in on the line of bull Craig Brown is feeding about agreeing to sign-free zones and a pristine Prescott. He is the #1 offender in littering the entire county with his obnoxious signs that he started putting up in early June, long before any other candidate and 75+ days before the election. I dare you to drive on any road in the Prescott area, or beyond, without passing at least 2-4 of his trash-on-sticks signs. Pristine Prescott.......HA! Does he really think the community is going to elect him because he has the most signs shoved down their throats!? I and everyone I have talked to say they aren't going to vote for him just because of the mass litter he is spewing all over the county. It makes it look like he is trying to use over exposure to get votes because he has a very weak platform.

Posted: Friday, June 29, 2012
Article comment by: An unmarked white pickup truck hops the curb and hammers in a sign!

Friday was a big day for the GOSAR white unmarked pickup truck. Saw it twice in the area of Iron Springs and Williamson Valley Road. Jumped right over the curb, drove about 20 feet into a bare area, and planted one of his 'patriotic' red, blue and white signs. And fled. By five o'clock these yahoos had planted dozens of his signs all over town. Saw several along Copper Basin. The idea of our lame duck city attorney Kidd telling the council to wait till AFTER THE ELECTION to do anything about this indefensible, tacky sign pollution is not acceptable. Do something now!!! Limit the number each candidate can put out, the size of the signs, and reduce the number of days they are allowed! Hear that Hanna is planning to remove his huge banner on the side of the insurance building at the intersection of Gurley and Montezuma. So complaining just might slow these boys down a bit.

Posted: Friday, June 29, 2012
Article comment by: An Observer

Most of the candidates mentioned have already held political office. I am voting for the one with no signs and his volunteer knock on my oor to distribute a door hanger.

Posted: Friday, June 29, 2012
Article comment by: Sally Ride

Back East, our town regulated when the signs could go up (like a certain # of days before an election), Candidates could ONLY place signs with the permission of the owner of the property. Signs could NOT be placed on easements. And every sign had to be collected within the week following the election. There was a fine for every day and every sign that remained. These rules applied to every sign including lost dog, yard sale, circus you name it. It cleaned up our town really fast.
Craig Brown, candidate for County Supervisor, put his sign on an easement this year, in front of a homeowner's property who did not support him. The homeowner did not destroy the sign, It was taken down, and the candidate was asked to come and pick it up. Instead, he filed a misdemeanor charge against the homeowner for "tampering with a political sign." Wow!! Homeowners should not have to put up with that kind of nastiness. Who would vote for him?


Posted: Friday, June 29, 2012
Article comment by: Cordes Coyote

The last thing the tourists need to be exposed to is Prescott's political side.

Posted: Friday, June 29, 2012
Article comment by: Tongue-in-Cheek .

According to some comments, it would seem appropriate that sign posting restrictions should only apply to Republicans, i.e. Simmons or Hanna for example.
Personally, I think the city should ban bumper stickers also since they are on public right-of-ways and studies show Democrats are 10 to 1 more inclined to stick bumper stickers all over their cars.
While the city is at it, they should ban wall paintings that depict ideological themes and so on and so on.
Then the ACLU will sue the city for restricting free speech as to where you can stick your political optics.


Posted: Friday, June 29, 2012
Article comment by: Beth C

I agree that there should be a campaign sign free zone.
Tourists come to our town for the historical beauty of Prescott-they don't want their photographs to be filled with campaign signs.
How very tacky.
Of course I will not vote for anyone who litters our space with these signs.


Posted: Friday, June 29, 2012
Article comment by: The Rev

@"Another A.L.E.C. Law"

I could not find your source. Will you direct me to it?


Posted: Friday, June 29, 2012
Article comment by: Bill Sonsin

When I lived in MN in the 90's, candidates could put up signs on private property only. Some candidates were putting up 2, sometime more signs on an individual property leading to visual blight and a mess. Our City Council passed an ordinance saying that no candidate or issue could have more than one sign on an individual property. Not exactly pure by first amendment standards, but all the candidates and office holders instantly endorsed it as a way to reign in what had become a mess not to mention a runaway campaign expense.

Prescott City Council and attorney Kidd, please take notice. Please stop this visual pollution now. Thanks.


Posted: Thursday, June 28, 2012
Article comment by: More Trash in The Dump

I favor adding more signs, billboards and the like to downtown. The area is disgustingly filthy already.
Prescott, get off your behinds and clean up the downtown sidewalks and the courthouse square!!


Posted: Thursday, June 28, 2012
Article comment by: Take it all down! Sick of it!

I am so sick of this political crap that I will not vote for any of these jerks that have these signs that are nothing but a blight on the community. Between the local garbage and the national garbage, it all makes you sick.

Posted: Thursday, June 28, 2012
Article comment by: Is it Legal?

I watched a truck drive off the roadway to the fence along highway 89 so he didn't have to carry the sign he was posting. Is it legal to drive between the highway and the fence along a state road? Pulling off the highway is one thing, but to pull up to the fence which is 25 feet off the roadway is destroying state land.

Posted: Thursday, June 28, 2012
Article comment by: I was unaware that the Chamber of Commerce supported candidates.

And to some degree control where signs can be located. No surprise. They have over the years morphed into an anti-environment, far right wing, conservative, gun totin' lobbyist. A big one. The national chamber won the Rubber Dodo Award for 2011. Look it up! So only members or friends of the Chamber can put signs on members or friends properties. Seems unfair to me. But what do they care.

Posted: Thursday, June 28, 2012
Article comment by: It IS Political Poo!

As if people were not disgusted enough with politics in all forms, now we have to have our noses rubbed in it and get it virtually on our shoes when we go downtown. Campaigning already stinks to high heaven.

I guess it might help to level the playing field though. Some candidates do get a leg up on others if they are supported by Chamber of Commerce money and get to hang their signs on downtown Chamber of Commerce members' business properties, so it might be fair to those who don't have that advantage to get some equal visibility. But will it really help any candidate?

How many of us are swayed to vote for someone who splashes their political poo all over the sidewalk, so to speak? Nobody I know. We need to preserve the appearance and neutrality of downtown or we will surely turn everyone off.


Posted: Thursday, June 28, 2012
Article comment by: Just Wonderin'

By waiting with sign restrictions until after the Nov. 6 election, Kidd said, "That way, we don't get into any issues of whether someone has a pre-existing right. It would keep the city clear from First Amendment rights (issues) or pre-existing rights (issues)."

I'm confused, does the Constitution expire in November?


Posted: Thursday, June 28, 2012
Article comment by: some old guy

Great idea! - they can post the signs anywhere outside of the city limits!

Posted: Thursday, June 28, 2012
Article comment by: Another A.L.E.C. Law

If you wonder where this weird pieces of legislation come from, look no further than ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council. They write the laws for all state legislators in every state, and they elect them too!

Goodbye, Democracy. Hello ALEC.


Posted: Thursday, June 28, 2012
Article comment by: Note this candidates!

Everyone take a look at the tacky big red Hanna election banner roped on the side of the Keller Williams Real Estate office on Cortez Street. Must be six feet wide! And the rash of huge Simmons and Hanna signs already multiplying all over town, Even facing the Courthouse Square. Tasteless, tacky, election pollution personified. I know I and many others are offended by this political poo. Do visitors want to see this stuff? Tourists? And I can assure you I will vote for the candidate who puts up the fewest banners and signs!



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