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Flagler Government Will Crack Down On Mobile Campaign Billboards And Other Signs

| July 11, 2018

mobile billboards

The 2012 campaign for a judgeship filled the parking lot next to the county courthouse with creative, mobile billboards. (Flagler County)

Political candidates, be forewarned: come Monday, Flagler County government will approve new rules that seek to ban many types of campaign signs and campaign vehicles from all county-owned properties.

The targeted properties include the large parking lots next to the courthouse and the Government Services Building, where candidates have grown used to parking vans and trucks blaring their vote-for-me signs at all hours of the day or night, and at the county library on Palm Coast Parkway, where vehicles turned into campaign billboards frequently crowd out parking for library patrons or even voters.

On Monday, the Flagler County Commission is expected to approve a new resolution that will give the county’s code enforcement officials or sheriff’s deputies the authority to levy fines on rule-breakers, uproot and destroy their illegally planted signs, or even tow vehicles parked in violation of the new rules. The county, in short, is adopting rules similar to those in place in Palm Coast, where code enforcement brigades quickly mow down illegally planted signs and mobile billboards on city properties are a rare sight.

The new county rule will not apply to signs wrapped to a car or magnetized to it or attached to it inside a windshield, “providing the vehicle is properly situated in a single parking space during normal business/operating hours, and the driver and/or occupant(s) is conducting business and/or utilizing a service or amenity provided at an adjacent government facility.”

That somewhat legally vulnerable provision places any enforcer in the position of having to either hunt down the vehicle owner or occupants and to judge whether he or she are involved in “conducting business” on the premises. But the ordinance does not seek to regulate the content or the message of the signs, applying the rule in a blanket manner to all signs, including commercial signs.

“Our goal always is to create a good environment to vote in,” County Administrator Craig Coffey said at a workshop briefing the commission on the pending rules last week. “We just don’t want people parking vehicles overnight on your property. Think about safety, think about terrorism, like the Oklahoma City bombing, it was a U-Haul truck parked full of explosives, you’ve got  courthouse you could park pretty close to. We always want to be monitoring those kinds of issues.” (It was actually a Ryder truck.)

Ironically, the morning before the discussion about the new rules, anonymous campaign-style signs calling for the firing of Coffey began appearing, with the message: “County Administrator Craig Coffey MUST GO  Wake Up Commissioners Fix the FCSO Operations Center,” a reference to the problems at the potentially sick sheriff’s Operations Center in Bunnell. It’s not known who is behind the signs though Dennis McDonald, one of the candidates in the county commission race—in the district represented by Greg Hansen—has made the operations center the centerpiece of his campaign.

Coffey alluded to the sign at the workshop. Coffey: “We get blanketed sometimes, we’ll come in on a Monday, even there’s a sign today—‘fire Craig Coffey’ or whatever, because of the Sheriff’s building,” Coffey told commissioners, “that was on our property, someone put it on our property overnight. But you’ll get campaigns that’ll blanket an area, or you’ll get occasionally we used to have executions and they’d be protesting executions or something else, or we get commercial solicitations on our property occasionally.”

Supervisor of Elections Kaiti Lenhart said voters have contacted her office to share experiences with candidates “impeding walkways, taking the handicapped parking spots” at the public library—often a zone of contention at election time—or seeing “the first couple of spots next to handicapped parking spots being taken first thing in the morning.” Lenhart anticipates more parking problems at the Government Services Building, where even on a regular working day, outside of election season, most parking spots are filled. She recommended planning for additional parking spots for the elections office in future years.

And she reminded candidates that her office provides a guide for candidates and their volunteers to help them abide by rules and laws. (See the supervisor’s guides for candidates here.)

“Most people try to go within the rules,” Commissioner Dave Sullivan, who is not running for office this year, said. “But to me the biggest problem that occurs is one campaign fighting another campaign and that sometimes can get very hot. I’ve been exposed to that. I think the quicker you can enforce these rules the less of that will happen.”

“I’m sure what we’ve got here won’t be perfect but we’ll continue to work on it. Our goal is to make it as perfect as possible,” Coffey said.

Commissioners agreed to delay action on the proposal until July 16, giving the public a chance to digest what several of them had not even read before last Monday’s workshop.

None of the proposed regulations apply to private property, where candidates may plant signs as long as they have the property owner’s permission. In Palm Coast the parking of vehicles turned campaign billboards may run afoul of the city’s ban on the parking of commercial vehicles in residential zones for any reason other than when that vehicle’s operator is engaged in business at the property, though courts have made distinctions between political and commercial signage in residential areas, being more permissive toward campaign signs.

See the pending resolution below.

Election Signs Resolution (2018)

12 Responses for “Flagler Government Will Crack Down On Mobile Campaign Billboards And Other Signs”

  1. Born and Raised Here says:

    Wait a minute, aren’t we protected by something called ” The United States Constitution”, Like Freedom of Speech, and Freedom of Expression.

  2. Old crooner says: says:

    Signs Signs everywhere theres signs messing up the scenery breaking my mind. Do this Don’t do that can’t you read the sign?

  3. Agkistrodon says:

    What if they place them on the overpasses on I95, would that be okay?………………..

  4. Kw says:

    One group already put a sign on my property with out permission. Went in to trash. Now I know who I wont vote for.

  5. Really says:

    @crooner great…tune …The last thing we should be worrying about, fix the roads

  6. Don Appignani says:

    Interesting that you used a photo from 6 years ago. That truck never caused any problems and was never parked for any extended period of time on government owned property during business hours. The photo might make readers believe that Don Appignani is the main culprit causing this problem. I am not even a candidate for political position this year. Photo is very misleading. Agreed. the ordinance may be a violation of the First Amendment.

  7. Charlie says:

    I’m putting a sign out front of my house that reads……

    ATTN: Palm Coast Government


  8. tulip says:

    Campaign signs are a double edged sword—damnd if you do, and damnd if you don’t. I agree about all the big vehicles and especially how they take up parking spaces and invade the place, and who can have the biggest signs. Also, when the candidates all put their signs in one spot in various places. There are so many in a group that it’s impossible to read and remember them anyway. Then there are the businesses who discriminate about who they will allow to display a campaign sign on their property. There are actually people who won’t do business with someone who displays a sign for a candidate they don’t like. Vice Versa also.

    However, if a lot of signs aren’t put up, the majority of voters will have no idea who is running, what they stand for and want to do because they don’t pay attention, attend events and debates so they can get to know the candidates, read the flyers and maybe do a little research. Most people vote for the name they see the most on signs. Heck, look how Kim Weeks got elected . People remembered the sign and checked off the familiar name on the ballot instead of researching what she really was like.

    I think that some of the overuse of signage could be improved by disallowing certain vehicles and signage as mentioned in the above Flagler Live story

    All campaign signs should be restricted to a certain size. All the big signs on framework should have a maximum size and height. The same thing with the smaller ones. Speaking of smaller ones, I used to notice the little ones close down to the road and remember the candidates name of those more than I did the larger ones. The little ones that are eye catching in color with the name in a standout color work for me, as well as the eye level ones when you’re driving.

    The city or county could have designated spaces. One designated area each in the North, south, east, west and central part of the city where the candidates could put ONE sign in each area, and not be allowed to display them in such a manner that they block out another person’s sign. By doing this, there aren’t a gazillion signs scattered all over the place and, in some cases, lining the side of the street as was done on Cypress Point one year.

    Limit sign display to 4 weeks before election, not 2 months or whatever.+

    I think the sheriffs department should have been more diligent about the way the Library parking lot was used and abused by some of these candidates and forced them to obey the rules, or ban them from using the parking lot, . The same goes for any other public parking lots and voting places.

    Learn about the new candidates running and the incumbent’s record and vote accordingly because they are the ones that run the county and cities long after the signs are down. You get what you voted for–be careful.

  9. Anonymous says:

    This guys r crazy

  10. 107 says:

    Let the process take its course and stop trying to manipulate the process. It is evident that McLaughlin A/K/A McLaughable and Hansen are doomed and will soon be job hunting. We’ve had enough, and we want representatives that work for us and not for Craig Coffey! Hey boys, YOU’RE FIRED!!!!! We will replace you BOYS with MEN.

  11. FISCAL says:

    I have seen this managed by allowing them within a timeframe as someone suggested above.

    2-4 weeks before an election and must be removed within 48 hours after.

  12. Anon says:

    I see candidate for Flagler commissioner Joe Mullens signs all over the place – and I understood that he had to have each property owner’s permission before he could place a sign there, including vacant undeveloped properties (which he’d love to build apartment complexes on I am sure). I heard that he also posted vulgar, nude photos of his wife on social media, as well as doing other corrupt things while in Georgia. His business address is still in Georgia too. I am certainly NOT voting for more swamp creatures into power like him. I don’t care how flashy his numerous cars are.

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