What are Unalaska’s rules for posting campaign related signs around town? That was City Councilor Shari Coleman’s question and it sparked a heated discussion at last night’s council meeting.
“Should we allow signs on campaign signs to be displayed on city property?" Coleman wondered. "If so, let’s have something in writing as to how they should be placed.”
Coleman thinks the current rules are ambiguous and she's concerned that the city isn’t enforcing the ordinances regarding signs. She’s right. Under city code signs are allowed, but the person placing the sign needs a permit to do so.
This lack of follow through has Unalaska resident Clint Huling riled up.
“One of my pet peeves is having laws on the books that nobody follows, then you have people doing illegal things constantly," Huling said. "If you’ve got a law on the books right now that you have to have a permit to put up a garage sale sign in the city right of way -- and it sounds like it’s unanimous that nobody wants that -- then get rid of it.”
According to Planning Director Bil Homka it’s not quite that simple. He says this topic grazes safety and freedom of speech issues, so any new regulations will have to be fleshed out.
“You can’t say, 'oh, Girl Scouts are great, but some other non-profit, we don’t want to hear from them,'" Homka said. "You’ll find in most public right of way spaces, [signs] are prohibited because they don’t want to get into regulating free speech on their lands. It’s all or nothing.”
The council did not make any decisions about modifying signage regulations last night, but plan to weigh options at future meetings.
For the third consecutive year, the council has allotted funds to pay for one month of salary and benefits for Unalaska’s SeaGrant agent. The directive will draw $13,594 from council sponsorship.
In the future, Interim City Manager Erin Reinders suggested that the council consider making this request a part of the city’s non-profit grant funding process.