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Dispute boils in Maine over city council candidate's lobster-trap campaign signs

Thursday, October 18, 2007

PORTLAND, Maine -- A part-time lobsterman and waterfront activist who's running for the city council found himself in trouble with the law when he put up campaign signs mounted on lobster traps.

On Tuesday, city workers removed about eight of the signs and wooden traps that Bill Linnell had put up at busy thoroughfares and intersections. The city clerk notified him that they were illegal because they could create a public safety and maintenance problem on public rights of way.

"What we don't want to get into is a case of one-upmanship, where somebody puts signs on lobster traps, so somebody else puts theirs on an inflatable cow," said Steve Landry, a state Transportation Department public safety engineer. "There's a safety factor out there."

Linnell denies he did anything illegal and said he may sue the city, although not before the Nov. 6 election.

"From my reading of the ordinance, I was absolutely within my rights, in the spirit and the letter of the law," said the candidate, whose signs identify him as "Captain Bill Linnell."

For now, he's using different signs, some adorned with buoys, to portray himself as an advocate for Portland's working waterfront. Linnell is one of four candidates running for an open council seat.

The traps on which Linnell displayed his blue-and-white signs were old and ready to be discarded, so he figured it made good environmental sense to recycle them for a different use, he said.

City workers told Linnell he could pick up his traps within 20 days, but he advised them to just throw them away. "I've got hundreds of traps at home," he said.


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