Monday, May 5, 2014
Berkeley County Council has unanimously passed a resolution temporarily suspending two political sign provisions that put the county in hot water with free speech advocates.
Berkeley County has a blanket sign ordinance that does not allow signs in public right-of-ways. The county created a political sign exemption to so political signs could be placed in the public right-of-way leading up to an election. The county does not regulate signs placed on private property.
What irked free speech advocates is that the county restricted political signs to 45 days or less prior to an election and to only pertaining to a specific candidate or ballot measure. That means that neither a sign reading “RINO” (Republican In Name Only) placed next to a candidate’s sign nor, as Councilman Tim Callanan jokingly proposed during a recent meeting, would “Can Callanan” be allowed.
During the April 28 regular meeting of council, council unanimously authorized temporarily suspension of enforcement of those provisions. That means political signs in the public right-of-way can be erected at any time and that those signs don’t have to adhere to a candidate or upcoming ballot measure. But council isn’t worried about opening the floodgates since the resolution is temporary.
In a telephone interview with The Independent, Callanan called the sign controversy a “thorny issue” and a “double-edged sword,” where if you eliminate the political sign provision all together you have less of an issue than if you try to make an exception and put limitations on it.
“It’s going to take us time to figure out an ordinance,” Callanan said.
The county’s attorney is working to draft new language, but no decisions or new ordinances will be made prior to the upcoming June election.