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Oct 26, 2015 5:54 PM

Political candidates cry foul after Rochester ordinance bans placing signs on public property

ROCHESTER - It recently became more difficult for political candidates to achieve name recognition in Rochester.

The city recently revised it's ordinance on signage, including new limits that ban the placement of any sign on public property.

Now, political candidates say they're concerned for themselves and opponents - fearing the impacts of not being able to post political signs on city rights-of-way, like they have done in years past.

“It’s all about name recognition when you run for local office," said mayoral candidate David Walker, who told NH1 News that overbearing political signs prompted a review of the ordinance. "They were kind of getting out of hand – with a lot of sign pollution, a lot of signs everywhere.”

The revision now limits where signs can be placed - including the city’s medians and in public areas along main roadways - former, popular spots for signs.

Walker believes the revision could be a disadvantage for newcomers trying to get elected.

"Elections are expensive enough, and if a newcomer that just moved into the area or just started doesn’t have name recognition – they really need to be in the right-of-way," he said.

According to NH state law, political advertising can’t be placed on public property – including highway rights-of-way - unless it’s state-owned, and not a hazard to traffic flows.

The local ordinance change was approved by city councilors, who received recommendations to adapt Rochester's rules to state regulations.

Like the state - the city’s revised ordinance now prohibits signs from being placed along public property. As a result, many political candidates must now convince private property owners to allow them to place their signs on properties along busy roadways to get exposure.

Not all sign-placers appear to be following the rules, however.

Two signs along North Main Street on Monday appeared to be in violation, posted on public property. The signs appeared to belong to the Bernie Sanders campaign and Bean Group Realty.

Rochester's city attorney, as well as the city's director for Building, Zoning and Licensing Services were not available for comment.

As for those involved in municipal elections now forced to find publicity elsewhere - Walker says he is worried it could have an impact at the polls.

“People are going to go to the polls on November third and they’re not going to have heard of either candidate," said Walker. "So it will be interesting to see how it all pans out.”

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