SEBASTIAN – Sebastian residents and business owners wanting to get a jump on supporting their candidates in November’s municipal election will have to wait 30 days before Election Day to post their candidates’ signs.
The Sebastian City Council recently decided that its political sign rules should be enforced without exception, though in 2008 and 2009 it waived the rules and allowed signs to go up sooner.
“These issues are very difficult, legally,” City Attorney Robert Ginsburg told the council during the discussion.
Ginsburg explained that the courts have allowed governments the ability to address political speech in the form of signs, but it is still a matter of “free” speech under the First Amendment.
Ginsburg reviewed the ordinances of eight other municipalities and told the Sebastian City Council that Sebastian’s rules are the most restrictive.
In Sebastian, political signs touting a candidate or voting issue may not be posted more than 30 days out from the election and must be removed within five days of the election when the candidate or issue are decided.
“What’s in place now is enforceable,” Councilwoman Andrea Coy said, double-checking with Ginsburg, who confirmed.
“Let’s not do anything,” Vice Mayor Don Wright agreed, noting that there are no changes needed to the ordinance.
For a time, the city waived its time constraints on political signs to be consistent with Indian River County.
The county, in 2008 and 2009, said it would not enforce its sign laws, which put municipalities in a position of either not allowing county political signs within their corporate limits or waiving their own rules to allow the signs.
As for non-election-based political signs – such as “Free Tibet” – Ginsburg told the council that the sign ordinance’s timeframes do not apply. Residents and business owners could post such signs on their own, private property.