London city hall’s bid to cut ‘sign pollution’ sent back for changes

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Your supporters might be able to post your election campaign sign on their front lawns before it hits city streets.

City politicians directed staff to report back on that and other changes to the bylaw governing municipal election signs at a Tuesday meeting of the corporate services committee.

Timing was a hot topic, and Coun. Josh Morgan suggested residents should be able to promote candidates on their own property after nomination papers are filed, rather than the end of the nomination period.

That would effectively double the amount of time a municipal election sign could appear on a front lawn – moving up the timeline from the end of July to the beginning of May.

The proposed bylaw would limit election signs on public and private property to August, September and October.

“There’s no reason why people shouldn’t be able to put out signs promoting a candidate on their own property,” Morgan said. “I see some merit in restricting it along the roadways . . . that’s where we get the complaints.”

But Coun. Maureen Cassidy suggested candidates should tread carefully anyway, noting a candidate in her ward was criticized last election for putting up signs too early.

“With the province now holding the set election dates, we will always follow a provincial election, and there is a lot of election fatigue out there,” she said.

“I didn’t put my signs up until Labour Day weekend.”

And using one date for signs — whether on front lawns or city boulevards — would be much easier for enforcement, Coun. Jesse Helmer said.

The bylaw, which politicians agreed would reduce “sign pollution” in city spaces, would also require a candidate’s election signs to be separated by 10 metres, and stay in the ward or area where the candidate is running. That’s a big change from previous years, when candidates could plaster an intersection with signs of all shapes and sizes.

Staff will also report back on measuring the required setback from the road. The bylaw uses a seven-metre triangle that’s calculated from the corner of the intersection. But some politicians are worried about measuring the setback when an intersection has a rounded curb.

“What I don’t want is someone standing in the middle of the roadway measuring that seven metres,” Morgan said.

Helmer suggested safety measures could be communicated to candidates and their campaign teams during training and information nights, rather than changing the bylaw.

Candidates will already have some adjustments to make to their signs, thanks to a revised Municipal Elections Act. All election posters will have to include contact information for the candidate, although city staff told politicians older signs may be altered with a sticker.

Committee chair Paul Hubert said politicians should keep the “big picture” in mind when amending the bylaw.

“The idea here is to really help candidates and keep people safe, so I think these are good adjustments,” he said.

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