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Mayor: campaign signs proliferate on city property, rights-of-way

Concerns seemed to be aimed at some colleagues, competitors

The spread of campaign yard signs on city-owned property has received a vote of no confidence from Burlington’s mayor Ian Baltutis, who has rallied his colleagues on Burlington’s city council to take action against these creeping political promotions.

Baltutis, who is himself on the ballot in this year’s election, took up the cause of ad proliferation on Tuesday in response to the unauthorized yard signs that he said have popped up within the right-of-way along city owned property – and, in some cases, on the actual grounds of city facilities.

Burlington’s mayor Ian Baltutis has urged his colleagues on the city council to take a tough stance on campaign signs that have begun to crowd the city’s public right-of-way and infiltrate some city parks. Above is along Webb Avenue near the former depot and police department. Below is Eva Barker Park along North Main Street.

Baltutis attributed the metastasis of these signs to the unusually large number of candidates in this year’s election. With five contenders for Burlington’s mayor and six others competing for two slots on Burlington’s city council, the city is slated to hold a primary on October 5 in order to pare down the choices for each office ahead of November’s general election.

But before voters go to the polls to narrow the field in each race, Baltutis insisted that the city should take steps to clear the landscape of some of the clutter that these campaigns have generated. In particular, the incumbent mayor trained his sights on yard signs that candidates have left within the public right-of-way along city-owned property.

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Baltutis recalled seeing signs for other candidates in the right-of-way near Burlington’s City Park as well as Eva Barker Park off of North Main Street. He added that some of these signs have even intruded on the actual grounds of these parks.

“Right now, they’re existing without express permission on city property,” he told the rest of the city council during a regularly-scheduled meeting on Tuesday. “That bothers me from the standpoint of using public property for political purposes,”

Baltutis called on Burlington’s city attorney David Huffman to confirm his assertion that, under state law, a candidate must obtain the consent of the adjacent landowner in order to place signs within the public right-of-way. Huffman affirmed the mayor’s reading of the relevant statute and added that the council has never given any candidate permission to erect signs in the aforementioned areas.

Huffman went on to assure the council that it, indeed, has the authority to remove campaign advertisements from its property as well as the adjacent public right-of way. In response, councilman Harold Owen, who is himself up for reelection this year, said that he would be amenable to enforcing the rules against unauthorized yard signs in the public right-of-way if he could get some additional guidance from the city attorney.

The rest of the council went on to endorse Owen’s request for more information about yard-sign enforcement within the right-of-way. In the meantime, its members gave city staff members the go-ahead to contact candidates and ask that they retrieve any signs from the city’s actual property.

For other Burlington election coverage, see these stories:

Where do the candidates stand on the issues? Candidates for mayor and city council respond to an issues questionnaire to express their positions on various issues they may confront:

Background on the newspaper questionnaire, introduction of the candidates for mayor (5) and city council (6):

Biographical information on the candidates:

Campaign finance reports reveal money pouring into Burlington campaigns:

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