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Saturday, June 11, 2016

Question raised over whether Crossville Recall signs qualify as political or not

Are they political or are they not? That is the question about the signs put up in support of the recall effort against city council members Danny Wyatt and Pamala Harris.

Do these qualify as political signs or not?

The city of Crossville's sign ordinance has an exclusion that allows political signs while outlawing other similar temporary signs that are not political. But even political signs can not be put up as to block views and create hazards for drivers.

Councilman Souza working on recall sign

Thursday evening before the city council's meeting, city officials including city manager Steve Hill, city attorney Will Ridley and codes department director Jeff Kerley met with councilman Pete Souza who has been seen putting up and working on some of the Crossville recall group's signs. According to the discussion, it appears that the current signs may not be political based on the opinion of Cumberland County Administrator of Elections Jill Davis.

Councilman Souza said that if it was clear that the signs did not qualify as political messages, he would have them taken them down. Souza said that the city has removed signs before that have been a hazard and usually those signs are collected and the city tries to contact the person they belong to and will hold them for a few days so they can be picked up.

City codes director Jeff Kerley said that he felt the ordinance on signs needed to be fixed, adding that it had many holes in it. He added that all signs need to be treated the same way. Councilman Souza also agreed that for the enforcement to be fair it had to treat all signs the same.

While the matter of signs did not come up during the city council agenda, during the meeting a pickup truck was parked in the parking lot in front of city hall with another sign in the back. The same truck was at last month's meeting with a different sign and appears to be brought to city hall by J. R. Blankenship who reportedly has put up the signs on Mockingbird Drive that mention councilman Jesse Kerley.

Parking lot political sign

The signs around town were brought up during a public comment at the end of the meeting. Citizen Bill Harwell complained about the political signs as well as the signs on Mockingbird Drive. Mr. Harwell started by reading some of the 101st Psalm and followed up with a discussion of the signs.

Public comments by Bill Harwell

Harwell said that county election coordinator had told him that it was not political season yet and the signs did not qualify as political signs. He said the signs were in violation of federal voting codes. He also felt the sings on Mockingbird land should be brought down or at least brought to someone's attention.

Crossville mayor James Mayberry asked if Harwell's comments were in reference to the earlier meeting and Harwell responded that they were. Mayberry said he was sure those involved in the meeting would looking into this.   

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