In December 2009, the state’s chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union sent town officials a letter saying that Mansfield’s regulations governing political signs are unconstitutional.
This has prompted the town’s Planning and Zoning Commission to review those regulations, and the commission invited Town Council members to share their views.
The Town Council on Monday, however, decided to postpone any comment, pending a public hearing the PZC plans to hold in April or May.
The PZC is the governing body that would decide what, if any, changes would be made to the rules.
Under current regulations, political signs can only be posted if they “pertain to the election of candidates to a public office (or) to the passage or defeat of a measure for which a specific voting date has been established.”
The rules prohibit political statements such as, “abortion is murder.”
Also, signs can be posted within 30 days of an election and must be removed within five days of the end of an election.
Proposed regulation changes drafted by the PZC would allow both political statements and election signs to be posted on private property, but prohibit signs on public property.
And while political signs on private property would not be restricted, the town would offer non-binding suggestions so as to preserve the town’s aesthetics without limiting free speech.
In addition, “To help reduce neighborhood impact and to help preserve Mansfield’s scenic character, it is recommended that political signs be limited in size and number, be non-illuminated and be displayed for a limited period of time,” the draft states.
Some town residents, such as Carol Pellegrine, took the opportunity at Monday’s meeting to voice their opinion.
“Political signs on private property should never be regulated by the Town of Mansfield,” she said. “We need to remove it from our regulations.”
Town property, however, shouldn’t be used for political signs because residents have different opinions, she said.
Town buildings and town-owned properties belong to all residents and should not be decorated with signs, she said. “It [a political sign] cannot represent all of us, so it should not,” Pellegrine said.
Another resident, Betty Wassmundt, said the town should revise the political sign policy or remove it completely.
“I feel that a political sign is one of the basic rights I get in this country,” Wassmundt said.
She said she objects to regulations that infringe the freedom of speech. “You’re trying to place limits on my freedom and my right of expression,” Wassmundt said. She added that she should be able to have a 10-foot-by-10-foot illuminated sign on her property if she wants to.
Posted Feb. 23, 2010 [As edited by HTNP.com Editor Brenda Sullivan]