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Jessie Levine
Town Manager
New London, NH

August 26, 2010

In what could be an early indicator of election results, I have received a roughly equal number of phone calls complaining about the extra large Bill Binnie sign on Newport Road and the extra large Anne Kuster sign on Main Street. Interestingly, callers usually complain about one or the other, but not both, and they want to know why the Town has not ordered the oversized signs to be taken down. Yes, here in New London -- where locals usually complain that our sign regulations are too restrictive -- we are being asked to interfere in the name of good taste and old fashioned sensibilities.

Although the New London Zoning Ordinance does contain a provision regulating the size of political signs, it is perhaps the only section of the ordinance that we will not enforce to its full extent (and will recommend to the Planning Board that it be changed). This is because we have been advised by legal counsel that the right to free speech supersedes local zoning regulations (my palm struck my forehead when I heard that one).

The First Amendment is alive and well in New London, and one person's eyesore is another person's right to political speech. Even though they might drive you crazy, keep in mind that the signs are temporary in nature. Elections are a transient, though passionate, event, and our role as public officials should be to encourage open and public dialogue leading up to some of the most important decisions we can make as citizens. We should welcome the expression of free speech and the right to assemble for strawberry shortcake on the Common or war protests on Main Street. In fact, the town lawyer reminded me, streets are a traditional and common forum for public expression, from signs to marches to parades, and as long as the signs are political in nature and do not represent a threat to public safety, they will be allowed. The right to free speech includes the right to express one's personal political opinion, hopefully with sensitivity and respect for the diversity of cultures and beliefs among us.


We can and will, however, enforce the following with respect to political signs: the right to free speech does not trump property ownership, so signs may only be installed with permission from the property owner (for these purposes, the rule of thumb is to assume that the roadside belongs to the adjacent property owner). Signs placed on land owned by the State or the Town will likely be removed (which may explain why your Ayotte sign has gone missing from the islands around Exits 11 and 12). The Zoning Ordinance does require that signs be removed within 10 days of the election, and that is enforceable (of course, if your candidate wins the September primary and will proceed to the general election in November, then your sign can stay). Signs may not be placed on telephone poles, bridges, or other public property, and may not interfere with motor vehicle's line of sight.

Speaking of elections, they will be held in our traditional polling place at Whipple Memorial Town Hall. The State primary is on the second Tuesday of September September 14 and the general election will be held on Tuesday, November 2. The polls will be open from 8:00 AM until 7:00 PM and proceedings will be overseen by W. Michael Todd in his first official role as the new Town Moderator. Mr. Todd will be ably assisted (guided, as it were) by Town Clerk Linda Hardy and Deputy Town Clerk Joan Pankhurst, and by an experienced and committed group of assistant town moderators, ballot clerks, and supervisors of the checklist (our election workers were commended by the Secretary of State's Office following the last general election).

Absentee ballot request forms for both the State primary and the general election are already available in the Town Clerk's office or on the Town Clerk's page on the Town website (go to Town Departments, then Town Clerk & Tax Collector, and scroll to the bottom of the page). Mail, fax, or hand deliver a completed request form to the Town Clerks and you will be given or mailed an absentee ballot. Completed absentee ballots must be received by Election Day (absentee ballots may not be hand delivered on the day of an election). For questions about absentee ballots, please contact Linda Hardy (tctc@nl-nh.com) or Joan Pankhurst (dtctc@nl-nh.com) at 526-4821 ext. 11 or 12.

Jessie Levine, Town Administrator
375 Main Street
New London, NH 03257

townadmin@nl-nh.com
Phone:
603-526-4821 extension 13
Fax: 603-526-9494

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