Daily Progress, Jacksonville, TX

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October 3, 2012

City residents allowed to display political signs on Saturday

JACKSONVILLE — With the November elections right around the corner, residents in the city limits of Jacksonville will finally be able to display their political opinions in the form of signs beginning on Saturday.

The city has an ordinance prohibiting the placement of any political sign until 30 days before the election. The signs must be on private property, away from the city or state road right of ways and cannot impede or district drivers.

They also must be under the size limit of 4 feet by 8 feet in diameter and be located 10 feet from streets or property lines.

“A lot of our concerns are with traffic,” Jody Watson, the city’s chief building official, said. “The candidates are tying to get the best locations to impact the most people but we have concerns for safety, so we have to remove those.”

Watson said the city is especially concerned with the safety of motorists on U.S. Highway 69 and U.S. Highway 79.

“Some cities don't have an ordinance and you can put them up anytime, and I feel like when you go through those towns all you see is political signs,” said City Manager Mo Raissi. “It's not a good sight to go through a city seeing that. Ours giving them 30 days, I feel like works out pretty good.”

Following election day, all political displays must be removed within 72 hours, according to the city ordinance.

Officials said many residents do not know about the ordinance, and the city tries to be accommodating.

Watson the city will first attempt to contact the owner to remove the sign themselves, and if they do not, the city will pick up the sign and store it.

“Most of the time what we do if we see it in the right of way or before time is due, we collect it and we have a storage room and they can come and pick it up,” Raissi said. “Those signs are pretty expensive.”

Watson said if the person is a repeat offender, they can be charged for the labor of removing the sign.

“It's kind of like getting your sign towed,” Watson said. “We impound it.”

For the rest of the county, political speech regulations follow state guidelines.

“State law regulates the placement of political signs, and the city of Rusk feels like since the state is regulating that then there is no need to for us to impose further restrictions,” said Rusk City Manager Mike Murray.

State regulations also prohibit signs placed on public right of ways and state they must be on private property. They cannot have a surface area greater than 36 feet and are prohibited from being illuminated or having moving parts. They cannot have language that could be deemed offensive to the average person, and cannot obstruct traffic flow.

According to state regulations, the signs cannot go up until 90 days before the election and must be taken down 10 days after.

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