| Posted: Saturday, Jan 26, 2013 06:00 am
If Coun. Roger Lemieux has his way, there will be significantly fewer election signs in St. Albert this October.
Lemieux has been working with the city’s legislative services department to craft two motions – one that would ban any size of election sign on St. Albert Trail, and a second that would ban election lawn signs citywide.
Lemieux said concerns about the safety, as well as the frequent vandalism of lawn signs and the “junky” appearance they create, especially along the trail, were the reasons he is seeking the bans.
“I just want to make it not so messy, make it more fair,” said Lemieux. “There’s also a danger factor, with people stopping their cars and putting on their four-way flashers and hopping out (to put up lawn signs).”
A veteran of two municipal elections, Lemieux said the impact of lawn signs on the electorate is negligible when compared to the risk and the nuisance factor they present. In his two successful election runs, Lemieux said he has used 400 signs, some of which have been vandalized or knocked over by the weather, which can pose a safety hazard.
“A lot of them are on wooden sticks and vandals come by and whack at them and break the sticks, then (the sticks) are sticking six inches out of the ground, sharp like a blade,” Lemieux said.
They are also a distraction for drivers, Lemieux added, and do nothing more than promote name recognition instead of an understanding of what each candidate stands for. He pointed to Strathcona County’s 2010 municipal election sign bylaws, which restricted candidate signs to a handful of arterial roads.
“The idea of signs, there are thousands everywhere and it’s just so confusing. Then people vote, sometimes on name recognition, and I don’t know if that’s wise,” Lemieux said.
Instead of lawn signs, candidates would be able to use larger four-foot-by-four-foot signs, just not on St. Albert Trail, if his second motion passes.
“The trail is too dangerous,” Lemieux said. He also contends candidates shouldn’t be competing with the businesses on the trail for sign space. A long-time critic of the temporary signs that dot the trail, Lemieux also wants to avoid excess clutter on St. Albert Trail.
Mayor Nolan Crouse said he supports Lemieux’s idea of banning signs on the trail, but isn’t sure about the lawn sign prohibition.
“There are certain rights that people have to advertise during elections,” Crouse said, adding the council will likely need a legal opinion on the idea of banning lawn signs. “I think it’s worth the conversation.”
Crouse supports the trail ban, pointing out the city now has a committee looking at St. Albert Trail’s appearance, function and future use. He said putting signs out on the trail is dangerous, but allowing election signs of any kind would just create more clutter.
“It’s unsafe. Signs blow down, people are in the middle of the street. I’ve seen people out putting their four-way flashers on, getting out of their vehicle, trying to pound signs in. And the trail is cluttered as it is,” Crouse said.
In 2010, the city banned signs from certain arterial roads, such as Ray Gibbon Drive and Bellerose Drive. Chris Belke, the city’s chief legislative officer, said staff are reviewing all bylaws relating to election signs in helping Lemieux craft his motions.
Belke said a recent amendment to the city’s traffic bylaw which prohibits parking vehicles near city roads with “For Sale” signs mounted on them will also need to be considered.
Lemieux’s motion should be presented to council sometime in February.