Councilman seeks limits on campaign yard signs
By Gordon Y.K. Pang
Advertiser Staff Writer
There's a new attempt to restrict political yard signs, this time at the Honolulu City Council.
Councilman Ikaika Anderson has introduced legislation that says political yard signs can't be larger than 2 feet by 4 feet. Resolution 10-31 also includes a restriction against putting up signs on private property any earlier than 120 days before an election, and no later than 30 days after the election.
There is a state law that says campaign signs cannot be erected more than 45 days before an election, but it has fallen by the wayside since the Attorney General's Office determined it would not be enforceable.
Anderson said curbing political signage not only cuts down on a visual eyesore, but helps candidates as well by easing the pressure on them to compete in sign wars with their opponents.
"So it's to help cut down on costs for candidates, as well as to help lessen the impact of visual blight on our communities," Anderson said.
There was some thought to including a limit on the number of signs, or the square footage allowed per property. But the council's Office of Council Services staff suggested that such a stipulation may not pass constitutional muster.
Anderson's effort is being applauded by the Outdoor Circle, which is largely credited with keeping billboards out of Hawai'i.
The organization has tried unsuccessfully to get political signage restrictions passed through the state Legislature.
Lawmakers cite concerns about time restrictions on political signs but Outdoor Circle spokesman Bob Loy believes there's also an unspoken reason why no political yard sign restrictions have been adopted.
"It's counterintuitive to most politicians to restrict their ability to put their name out," Loy said.
Daniel Gluck, senior staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union Hawai'i office, said he has not yet completed his evaluation of the bill.
However, "in general, laws that restrict speech on the basis of content are unconstitutional," Gluck said. "A law that limits political signs — but not other kinds of signs — would present an unconstitutional, content-based restriction."
But University of Hawai'i constitutional law professor Jon Van Dyke, who has been a consultant to the Outdoor Circle on this issue, said case law indicates restrictions can hold up legally.
"The law allows governments to restrict the size of political signs," Van Dyke said. "You can't prohibit them, but you can limit the size, and you can restrict people from getting paid for putting up signs."
And while an attorney general's opinion argues that time limits are not legal, a recent decision by U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals appears to indicate they are, Van Dyke said.
The resolution must pass before a bill can be approved because it affects the city's Land Use Ordinance.
Anderson said he doubts a bill could be in place to have an impact on this year's election.