(Updated, Oct 7 … We wrote to Chief Election Officer, who wrote back that “Engineering” is enforcing rules — via “311” contact service. The Vanness signs were removed by Oct 4. Others in question include E28th & Knight, 2748 W16th, 4216 Nanaimo, and Venables near Chinatown, to name a few — all by Vision Vancouver. Engineering Dept has not yet responded. ) Above is a Twitter exchange about a violation of election rules by one political party. Election signs started appearing all over the city on September 30, 2014, the first day of the official election period. First thing in the morning the next day, the Cedar Party of Vancouver contacted CityHallWatch to inquire about election sign rules. An angry citizen had found Vision Vancouver election signs directly in front of his home (just a few inches outside the fence line, on public property; a passer-by would assume the owner was supporting the party), ripped them up, and brought them directly to City Hall. The signs had been placed without the owner’s permission. Other signs have appeared in hundreds of locations in the City.
Vancouver bylaws allow election signs on private property with the permission of the property owner.
Signs on City-owned land are prohibited (see below). The City charges fees for removal.
It appears that Vision Vancouver workers on September 30 were taking advantage of the public’s lack of knowledge about exact rules, by placing signs right on the line between private and public property. In many cases, citizens might just shrug their shoulders and leave things as they are. In some cases, the signs are placed solidly on public land, in clear violation of regulations.
Other rules control when and where signs can be displayed — for example, they cannot be displayed within 100 meters of a polling station while the station is open.
Penalties for violations of election rules can be significant, including major fines and a ban from public office for up to five years.
Vision Vancouver violated sign rules in the 2011 election by having signs up across from City Hall on private land during polling hours on November 9 (advance polling day), but was not penalized, and in fact no violations even ended up being reported in the final report of the Chief Election Officer to City Council after the 2011 election. Weeks later, the Vancouver Police Department investigated the case. Deputy Chief Constable Warren Lemcke wrote that “a violation had likely occurred…” and “… there may have been other violations, but in all cases when contacted those responsible rectified the situation and came into compliance.” He concluded, “… we do not believe it is in the public interest to embark upon an investigation into this matter.” Vision Vancouver’s mayoral candidate this year, incumbent Mayor Gregor Robertson also happens to be the Chair and Spokesperson of the Vancouver Police Board. Welcome to Vancouver. See below for links to that particular case, and how the owner of that site benefited from a major rezoning approval in 2014.)
No media covered the story at the time.
Enforcement of the election rule system is complaints-based. Experience proves that City staff do not actively monitor compliance. For the 2014 election, citizens need to know the rules, document violations, and promptly report violations to the City. Keep notes for later reference. If a citizen complains to the Chief Election Officer and the response does not satisfy the citizen, the next person responsible is the Vancouver Chief of Police.
Citizens have a choice as to what promotional material is placed on their private property and adjacent to their property. In multi-tenanted properties residents should talk to the building owner or council if they suspect signs were placed without permission. In cases like these, people may assume someone else has authorized the sign, but it is best to check if this is so. If it is a violation, report it to the City.
(Updated) We wonder if Hanlon’s Razor (“Never ascribe to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity”) can explain the violations documented here. But since this year is the Vision Vancouver campaign team’s third election, ignorance of rules is not a likely explanation. One would assume the party’s chief strategist (@MikeMagee), candidates, and entire executive know the rules by now. Their violations on the first day of the official election season are not a good sign. In the case of the row of signs at the 2300 block of Vanness Avenue, the siting selection suggests a careful strategy was used. This location is in a clear line of sight for thousands of passengers per day on the Skytrain Expo line, and close to Nanaimo Station. If this single case is symptomatic of the political party’s approach — going as far as possible until caught in clear violation of the law — one wonders what this means for all other rules and regulations that apply to individuals and the organization.
We encourage citizens to be vigilant. We expect that within the next hours and days, City of Vancouver crews will be removing Vision Vancouver signs from some locations where violations have been reported, and encourage people to take photos for later reference. If City crews do the work, a fee is to be charged to the violator. If Vision Vancouver crews do the removals, the work is at their own expense.
WHAT TO DO IF YOU SEE A SUSPECTED VIOLATION
- Take a photo, and note exact location (address, is it on private or city land, or not sure)
- Send to Chief Election Officer (via firstname.lastname@example.org) and/or Tweet to @cityofvancouver. We suggest a hashtag of #vanelxnsignbust. You may also post on Instagram or Facebook so that there is a public record of the violation.
- Be sure to follow up to ensure the signs have been removed and keep a memo of dates.
- Seng an e-mail to us at citizenYVR@gmail.com and we’ll try to keep a record of things, to compare later with the Chief Election Officer’s official report to City Council, plus to see if fines or fees were imposed.
Relevant bylaws are here: http://app.vancouver.ca/bylaw_net/ConsolidatedReport.aspx?bylawid=2849
- Vancouver Street & Traffic By-Law 2849.
- Impound By-Law 3519
CityHallWatch seeks information about arrangements with private property owners. Do parties sign a contract with you? We would like to learn how formalized the process is. What happens if an owner change mind during the election and wants the signs removed? If you have a copy of a contract, please send to us at citizenYVR@gmail.com
The messages below were being circulated to elector organizations on September 30. We suspect these were triggered by the Cedar Party’s communications/complaints to City officials. Bold text was selected by CityHallWatch. (There are already known and documented violations in this election. After the 2014 election we will submit an FOI request to see how many instances occurred and how much was charged to each political party for violations and sign removal. We will also be interested to see if the violations are detailed in the final election report to City Council from the Chief Election Officer to see if she is doing her job.)
City of Vancouver Letterhead
September 30, 2014
This letter is a reminder to your party and volunteers that placement of election signs on City of Vancouver property is in violation of the Vancouver Street & Traffic By-Law 2849. Under the Impound By-Law 3519 the City is authorised to charge for the removal of unlawfully placed items on city streets. The fee charged is $100.00 to $300.00 per sign or display based on the level of staff and equipment required for removal. Unpaid charges may be sent to collections for retrieval.
Election signs are not permitted on any city streets including, but not limited to: city boulevards, (the area between a street and sidewalk), street centre medians, poles, streets, and sidewalks. Signs or posters found in these areas will be impounded at the expense of the party/candidate involved. You may also wish to visit the City of Vancouver Public web site: http://www.vancouver.ca/bylaws/2849c.PDF to review the applicable By-Laws.
[CityHallWatch note: The link provided by Mr. Rockett did not work, but a friendly reader has provided this link to the bylaw:
Please note that campaign material may be posted using the City of Vancouver’s Poster Cylinders located on several lamp standards throughout the city. A list of these locations can be found on the City webpage at http://www.vancouver.ca/engsvcs/streets/admin/pdf/PosterCylinders.pdf. The City’s mapping system, VANMAP, can also be used to view the locations of the poster cylinders on a map of the City at http://www.vancouver.ca/vanmap/
Thank you for your cooperation during this election campaign and if any further information is required regarding this notification, please contact:
Street Activities Branch – Engineering
City of Vancouver
Phone: 3-1-1 or 604-873-7000.
September 30, 2014
RE: Election signs on Boundary Road
The guidelines and By-Laws for sign placement in the City of Vancouver outlined in the attached notice include the centre median of Boundary Road. The City of Vancouver maintains the median, thus all City of Vancouver By-Laws are in effect for the entire centre median area.
No election signs are permitted on the centre median of Boundary Road from Burrard Inlet to the Fraser River. Signs found on the median will be removed and the cost of removal will be forwarded to the appropriate individuals. Please insure that all of your staff and volunteers are aware of this.
We appreciate your cooperation with this matter.
Please feel free to contact me should you have any questions or concerns.
Street Activities Branch – Engineering
City of Vancouver
Phone: 3-1-1 or 604-873-7000
BACKGROUND READING ON VIOLATIONS IN 2011
Neighbourhoods for a Sustainable Vancouver complaint to Chief Elections Officer on Vision Vancouver signs, “Voting Day One” Vancouver Charter Violation
Vision Vancouver violation of election rules in 2011 linked to May 13 Public Hearing to rezone 2806 Cambie, across from City Hall
Election signs & upcoming Public Hearing for 8-storey building across from City Hall (2806 Cambie)