Candidate alleges unfair treatment by bylaw cops

by Sidney Cohen - October 2, 2018

A mayoral candidate believes his campaign is being targeted by the city because of his election promise to eliminate the Municipal Enforcement Division.

Mayoral candidate Jerald Sibbeston says he was forced to fix his signs because they exceeded the election sign bylaw, but that his competitors' signs have not faced the same scrutiny. Sidney Cohen/NNSL photo
Mayoral candidate Jerald Sibbeston says he was forced to fix his signs because they exceeded the election sign bylaw, but that his competitors’ signs have not faced the same scrutiny.
Sidney Cohen/NNSL photo

Jerald Sibbeston says MED is unfairly enforcing the election sign bylaw by going after his signs, but not those of his competitors.

Sibbeston had erected three, 12-foot (3.66-metre) signs, which violated the sign bylaw’s 8.2-foot (2.5-metre) height restriction.

The candidate, who acknowledges he violated the bylaw, said he was told by MED on Saturday that if he did not bring his signs in line with the rules, they would be removed within 24 hours.

He wonders, however, why MED has not threatened to take down the Twin Pine Hill sign of his mayoral challenger Adrian Bell, a sign which Sibbeston believes also exceeds the height limit.

Bell’s Twin Pine Hill sign stands on a slope. To accommodate the slope, one leg of the sign is longer than the other.

The longer leg is about nine feet, which exceeds the sign bylaw’s height limit. The shorter leg meets it.

When asked whether he believes his sign on Twin Pine Hill complies with the sign bylaw’s height requirements, Bell said “I have no clue.”

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He said on Tuesday that he had not considered the height restriction, but that if it’s determined his sign is too tall, he will adjust it.
Bell said no one has complained to him about the height of his signs.

“It’s nine-foot, one-inch. It’s way over,” said Sibbeston of Bell’s sign. “It couldn’t have been unintentional.”

Sibbeston, who spent the weekend lowering his signs, was visibly agitated Monday, when he approached Yellowknifer about his troubles with MED.

“I lost two days of debate prep over this and the debates are tomorrow,” he said, referring to Tuesday’s Yellowknife Chamber of Commerce mayoral candidates forum.

“I simply will be unprepared for the debates as a result of (MED) taking the action at the time that they did.”

Yellowknifer asked the city about Sibbeston’s allegations, including whether MED was deliberately targetting him because of his platform.

City spokesperson Richard McIntosh did not respond to that specific accusation but said a member of the public complained about Sibbeston’s signs.

McIntosh said the complaint was dealt with in accordance with the sign bylaw.

“All candidates are accountable to the same campaign rules,” he said.

Sibbeston, who prides himself on his shoestring campaign, said he made his signs 12-feet tall to protect them from vandalism.

“It was just a logistical thing. I can only afford those three signs and … the reason I had them that high up is because the bottom of the sign is eight feet off the ground and you just can’t spray paint that,” he said. “It had nothing to do with getting more attention.”

Sibbeston has said that if elected, he would push to get rid of the bylaw enforcement division by cutting its staff from 13 employees to two, and changing their roles.

He believes his crusade against MED is what led to complaints about his signs, and that it will follow him beyond the Oct. 15 election.

“If I lose this election, I don’t know how much longer I’ll be able to live in this town because I do fear reprisal,” he said.