Campaign Signs: Long Day’s Journey Into Blight

Until about a year ago, a house several blocks down from us displayed a Kathy Whitmire for Mayor sign in the yard.

Whitmire’s last run for that office took place in 1991.

Should’ve taken a photo before they redid the landscaping!

That particular sign, I loved.  The lingering campaign signs that bother me are the ones candidate put up illegally in the first place, then never bother to remove.

Often, these are the oversize wall signs, zip-tied onto chain-link fences surrounding vacant lots or nailed onto boarded-up windows on abandoned, decrepit buildings.  Sometimes, they are yard-size variety, stranded on a median or orphaned on a corner, not really on someone’s property, but not in an area that gets swept by the bandit sign unit.

The signs linger, and maybe candidates hope the lingering leads to name recognition.  Most of the time, it just leads to a pathetic public image for the losers, as their signs fade in the sun and heat and people wondered what happened to them that was so bad they couldn’t pick up their trash?

Let’s pass a law requiring candidates to remove all of their signs, except those on private property, within a certain number of days after an election.  For signs left up beyond that time period, candidates could be fined, either a one-time penalty or one that accrues based on (the number of signs) x (number of days beyond the deadline).

Candidates fined for signs left up on old buildings or fences could have the fines dismissed by providing an affidavit from the property owner saying permission had been granted for the sign to hang there.  I don’t think this would create an undue burden, especially with the large signs, because campaigns only print a limited number of those and should be able to track permission fairly easily.  Just keep a record each time one goes up, along with a note about who requested it.  This would be super-easy for candidates who field requests for signs via website.  Supporters fill out a form asking for the sign, and ta-da, the candidate can produce that record as evidence of permission.

I’m sure candidates would complain about overzealous volunteers acting outside the scope of the campaign’s knowledge.  (I’m also sure most of those candidates’ bandit signs were hung by people on the payroll of someone on the payroll of the candidate … but we’ll ignore that.)

Well, if your campaign has such overzealous volunteers, organize them the weekend after the election and give a prize to the one who brings the most signs back to headquarters.

Bill White, after his first run for mayor of Houston, actively solicited the return of campaign signs to his headquarters.  People were energized and happy to help.  More candidates should do this voluntarily, and maybe we wouldn’t even need a law.

The alternative?  Turn your campaign sign into enduring art:

And yes, irony of posting a Fox News clip for this illustration duly noted.

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