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Archive for Sunday, October 20, 2002

City busy enforcing code for political yard signs

October 20, 2002

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The Nov. 5 general election is drawing near, and the signs are everywhere.

Political candidate signs, that is.

And though there's nothing illegal about a little self-promotion, city code prohibits candidates from staking signs in city rights-of-way. But that hasn't stopped people from posting signs where they don't belong.

Just ask Barry Walthall, the city's codes enforcement manager.

"We pick them up every day," he said. "It's not one particular candidate. Any sign that we see in the right-of-way, we'll pick up."

Campaign signs may be placed on private property with the owner's approval, City Manager Mike Wildgen said. However, spaces with utility poles or that lie between the street and sidewalk are off-limits.

Wildgen said the city always struggled with illegal sign placement around election time.

"The campaign managers send out college kids at $7 an hour and say, 'Go put up signs.' And they put them up," he said. "We put a lot of them in the Dumpsters, frankly."

The Journal-World has received complaints specifically about signs promoting Republican Adam Taff, who is trying to defeat 3rd Congressional District Democratic incumbent Dennis Moore.

The Taff campaign encourages its volunteers to put signs only where they're allowed, press secretary Scott Holeman said. It wouldn't make sense for those involved with the campaign to put the expensive signs they run from $1 to $3 apiece in a place where the city is likely to confiscate them and throw them away.

He suspects thieves may be to blame for the illegally placed signs.

"We have purchased more than 13,000 yard signs, and hundreds of them have been stolen," he said. "I don't know whether they end up in Dumpsters or if people are putting them in places where they shouldn't be so they can complain about them.

"They cost too much money for us to not place them legally and wisely. We want to follow the law. We want everyone who's affiliated with our campaign to follow the law."

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