Keene, NH– Members of the Keene city council’s Planning, Licenses, and Development Committee have moved forward in clarifying the city’s power to define and enforce where political sign placement would be allowed, as well as where they would be prohibited.
Resolution R-2016-31 seeks to grant the city the ability to both permit and prohibit political signs in certain areas.
According to an Oct. 12 Planning, Licenses, and Development Committee meeting, there was a complaint received before the state primary regarding a political sign installed at the city’s recreation center. At that time, the city did not know if it had the capacity to either grant permission for that sign’s placement or authorize its removal, so the attorney general’s office was contacted. The AG’s office implied that at the local level, there was no way to remove the sign without first passing some type of ordinance.
“This has been a point of confusion both for candidates and election officials over the years,” said city clerk Patricia Little.
Little explained that in 2008, a resolution to clarify and limit campaign signage had been proposed but the AG’s office indicated that the city of Keene had no authority to dictate sign placement. Little went on to say that the AG’s office is now advising that the city should designate locations where signs are allowed and prohibited in order to grant permission for signs as well as enforce their removal. However, assistant secretary of state Brian Buonamano indicated to the Keene Sentinel that he was not aware of a change at the AG’s office regarding its perception of the law.
Little said that the law, RSA 664:17, is a”poorly worded statute.”
The resolution would allow for political sign posting on some city rights-of-way where they would not be obstructive, but would forbid them from being placed in a great number of areas in Keene. According to the resolution, those proposed areas include:
“Main Street, Marlboro Street, Winchester Street Roundabout and splitter islands, Court Street, Maple Avenue, and East Surry Road Roundabout and splitter islands, Court Street, Allen Court and the hospital entrance Roundabout and splitter islands, Island Street, Pearl Street, and Winchester Street intersection and splitter island, Ashbrook Road median, Base Hill Road and NH Route 12 intersection medians, Winchester Street median, Maple Avenue median in front of the Middle School, Washington Street and Old Concord Road intersection, Main Street right of way (east and west side) and median north from the Main Street, Marlboro Street, and Winchester Street Roundabout to Central Square, the Central Square Common and splitter islands, and on medians or islands within the Commercial Street, Elm Street, Gilbo East and Gilbo West Parking lots or within any City park, City cemetery, or at any City facility and its adjacent rights of way other than polling locations on Election Day.”
In addition, the city seeks to address “unattended signs on election day,” an issue that the attorney general’s office reportedly wanted the city to address. It’s been proposed that on election day, the city will grant candidates permission to have unattended signs “on the perimeter of the polling location property.”
The resolution, which can be seen here, will be put before the city council on Thursday, Oct. 20 at 7 p.m.