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Sick of Campaign Signs? Government's Hands are Often Tied

Residents have complained to village about recall signs that haven't come down yet — more than three weeks after the election.

The election's over, already. So why are some of the recall campaign signs still up?

That's what some annoyed residents have complained to village officials more than three weeks after the .

But, in many cases, village officials say, there's nothing they can do about it. And that's due to court cases protecting people's freedom of expression on their own property.

They are, however, working with a property owner whose land contains a large "We Stand with Scott Walker" sign and a bulletin board with smaller signs at the corner of Pilgrim Road and Silver Spring Drive.

Several residents have come to asking officials to do something about it, said Matt Curran, community development director for the village. And in that rare case, they probably can, he said, because the sign doesn't meet size requirements.

Patch also has received a complaint about the signs. One local woman wrote, "I am one of hundreds in the Falls who think it's time to take them down."

Sparking confusion is the fact that several years ago, the village did have an ordinance that only allowed political signs to remain up for a certain period of time after an election.

However, the village rewrote its entire sign ordinance at that time to regulate many kinds of signs. That's when officials rewrote the ordinance to allow what Curran called "personal issue signs." They did so to be in compliance with court cases, he said.

"You can’t regulate content," he said. "There have been court cases on that, so the ordinance was changed to allow personal issue signs."

A personal issue sign can contain whatever content a person wants, as long as it "doesn't incite a riot or something," Curran said. "If you want to put up a sign that says Mickey Mouse is my hero, you can put up a sign in your yard as long as your property is 5 feet off the right of way and within certain size requirements."

And you could leave that sign up as long as you wanted. After all, it's your property.

What the village can regulate is whether the sign is too large or appears dilapidated.

"Personal issue signs can't exceed 6 square feet," he said.

That's the problem with the signs at the corner of Pilgrim and Silver Spring, said Curran.

"We received several complaints on that one," he said. "We are going to be contacting the property owner to inform them it's larger than 6 square feet."

Although people could be cited, Curran said the village prefers to try to work with property owners first to just get them to take the sign down. Usually, that works.

"We're not going to go around fining people to get compliance," he said. Fines could range from a few dollars to a few hundred dollars a day.

Jane Kolberg, zoning and inspections technician for the village, said a man walked into Village Hall this week to complain about the sign. She didn't take his name.

"He just said that it’s up there, and he didn’t like it and felt it should be taken down because the election is over," she said.

Kolberg said she thinks most of the recall signs are slowly coming down on their own.

"On the street I drive through, there used to be about eight, and there are maybe two left," she said.

She said the issue also arose in the last presidential election, where people complained about a few campaign signs remaining up long after it was over. The village did intervene with one that had become dilapidated, and the property owner agreed to take it down.

Greg June 30, 2012 at 02:04 AM
I find your Prius offensive and the Obama bumper sticker really sets me off.
W . Benz June 30, 2012 at 02:49 AM
Nanc were have you been the last year and previous elections "courtesy and respecting others" and "Maturity" Please ! and YES I and others are SPIKING the ball. ......Nanc don't wear a suit you may get muddy
Craig June 30, 2012 at 02:53 AM
I made my point ( see photo ) I removed my signs because the houses across the street are for sale. If not for that, I would still be gloating.
Craig June 30, 2012 at 03:03 AM
But I wonder how many blue fisters peeled off their "recall Walker" bumper stickers?
Nuitari (Grand Master Editor) June 30, 2012 at 03:37 PM
Instead of keeping up our Walker signs perhaps Walker can visit of few people off the recall petitions and leave an upper decker. Then they can be reminded of how the mature people of Wisconsin were treated during all this. FYI http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=upper+decker

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