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Pinellas Park may let political signs linger longer

PINELLAS PARK — Elections may not be until next year, but city officials are already considering some of the issues posed by those familiar icons of virtually all political campaigns — yard signs.

Pinellas Park prohibits candidates' yard signs until 30 days before an election. After the election, the signs have to come down within seven days.

In races that have a primary and general election, the winner of a primary must remove the signs within seven days, then put them back up before the general election.

That's a lot of trouble for both candidates and code enforcement officials. So the city is considering allowing primary victors to keep their signs up during the approximately 75 days between the primary and general election.

The concept, said Patrick Murphy, the city's assistant community development administrator, came from a suggestion by Pinellas Park's code enforcement officers after last year's election. The new rule would make yard sign policing much easier.

The change would affect only the signs of political candidates that are in people's yards — in other words, on private property. Signs in the rights of way would still be banned, although Pinellas Park code officers, who are quick to confiscate illegal campaign signs, are sometimes a bit more lenient two or three days before an election.

The proposed rule would not apply to city elections, which are nonpartisan with no primaries and no runoffs — it's winner take all. But it would apply to county, state and federal elections.

Nor would the proposal help a candidate who did not have to go through a primary. That candidate would be bound by the old rule limiting the posting of yard signs to 30 days before the general election.

Pinellas Park council member Ed Taylor said he had not thought of that situation.

"I thought all we were talking about was the runoff scenario," Taylor said.

In the case of a runoff, both candidates would be able to leave their signs up. But Taylor said he could see the unfairness of allowing a successful primary candidate to leave up signs while his or her opponent is prohibited from putting up signs until 30 days before the election.

"That needs to be fixed," Taylor said.

Murphy said there will be plenty of time for that because it's early in the process. The idea passed muster with the City Council last week during a workshop.

Now it has to be considered by the city's Planning and Zoning Board before the council takes it up for two readings and a public hearing.

"It will be back," Murphy said.

Reach Anne Lindberg at alindberg@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8450.

Pinellas Park may let political signs linger longer 06/30/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, June 30, 2009 1:23pm]
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