Political Notebook

When can you put a campaign sign in your front yard? Anytime at all, Fresno now says

A sign supporting Holly Carter for the District 6 seat on the Fresno City Council sits in front of Jerry Duncan’s northeast Fresno home.
A sign supporting Holly Carter for the District 6 seat on the Fresno City Council sits in front of Jerry Duncan’s northeast Fresno home. THE FRESNO BEE

It’s quite possible that former Fresno City Council Member Jerry Duncan had the city’s first political sign up in his front yard. Trailblazers, it seems, often become lab rats, and Duncan is no exception.

At issue: Just what are the rules governing political signs in the city of Fresno?

Duncan thought he understood them, which is why he put up the yard sign supporting District 6 City Council candidate Holly Carter. City Attorney Doug Sloan himself said it was OK, Duncan said.

It was a free-speech issue, Duncan said Sloan told him.

The First Amendment works in Fresno.

Former Fresno City Council Member Jerry Duncan

Still, Sloan drafted a memo last Dec. 4 that pretty much said Duncan was violating city ordinances. Among other rules, it quoted Fresno’s municipal code, which said political signs could not be put up more than 90 days before an election.

That would mean no political signs before March 10. (They also had to be taken down no later than 15 days after an election.) In fact, that’s been in Fresno’s municipal code for quite awhile, and when the December memo was issued, it was still the law.

Sloan stuck by that in a subsequent email to The Bee. Duncan in turn took down the sign but questioned Sloan in an email. The next day, Sloan sent another email, saying the rules had changed.

Last month, he said, the Fresno City Council adopted a new development code, and the part of the previous municipal code governing the time signs could be up was wiped from the books. That means political signs can now be put up whenever someone wants to put them up, and they never have to take them down.

“The First Amendment works in Fresno,” Duncan said.

There still are a few rules that are applicable to all signs – not just those that are political:

▪ Signs shall not exceed 32 square feet in area.

▪ Signs shall not exceed 10 feet in height.

▪ Signs shall not be attached to utility poles or put in the public right-of-way or on city-owned property.

▪ Signs can’t interfere with or mislead traffic.

The takeaway from this is that campaign signs in Fresno are now likely to be sprouting up in yards earlier and staying there longer than they did in the past.

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