Upper Arlington News

'Tis the season: City trots out rules for political signs


The country's protected right of free speech is in full swing this month as voters and others with political interests join legions throughout the nation who've chosen to promote their voting views via yard signs.

Last week, the city of Upper Arlington sought to "help all members of the community be good neighbors" by reminding them of local guidelines.

City officials issued the following guidelines:

* "UA city government is non-partisan. From time to time city council may endorse specific ballot issues such as school or library issues. However, city council does not endorse political candidates.

* "The city is in no position to regulate the language on a political sign, since this would infringe upon an individual's freedom of speech. Call the Ohio Elections Commission, at 466-3205, or visit www.elc.oh.gov to register a concern.

* "The city can regulate the size and location of political signs, with a brochure available explaining these guidelines at www.uaoh.net under our Development Department section.

* "The city can only request that signs be removed from private property if they are deteriorating or in the public right of way. If you believe either to be the case in a neighbor's yard, call Code Compliance at 583-5073.

* "Political signs placed on private property are themselves private property. Theft charges will be filed against any individual found to be taking such signs.

* "The Police Division recommends residents place their name somewhere on signs for tracking purposes, so they can be returned to their rightful owner, if stolen and later recovered."

Upper Arlington Community Affairs Director Emma Speight said the guidelines weren't issued in response to any specific problems city officials or the Upper Arlington Police Department have confronted this election season.

"I can confirm that the release was routine for this time of year," Speight said.

Upper Arlington Police said Oct. 19 there have been "very few" problems with political signs, but issues related to vandalism or removal of those signs typically arise each election.

"I have checked our calls for service and reports and could find only a handful of complaints involving political signs -- approximately eight to 10 reports of signs being removed and/or damaged -- over the course of the last several weeks," police officer Heather Galli said.

"In most cases, the caller has declined a report but just wanted PD made aware of the situation," she added.

"We have responded to similar complaints during past elections," she said. "There is no indication that 2012 is any different than years past."

Galli said most of the complaints have been related to thefts or vandalism of signs for presidential candidates.

Those found to have stolen or damaged a political sign can be charged with petty theft, a first-degree misdemeanor punishable by up to 180 days in jail or a maximum fine of $1,000, or criminal mischief, a third-degree misdemeanor punishable by up to 60 days in jail and a $500 fine.