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Archive for Saturday, November 6, 2004

Radio station puts bounty on yard signs

November 6, 2004

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— The Sedgwick County Republican and Democratic parties finally agree on something.

The two parties, and several of their candidates, are upset with two radio stations that offered to pay $1 for each campaign yard sign that listeners turned in. The offer of more than $5,000 in cash and prizes led people to pull signs from private property, party leaders and candidates said.

"It was a clever idea, but it needed a little more thought," state Sen. Les Donovan said.

The promotions were designed to clean up the political signs left on public property across Wichita the day after the election, said Barry McKay, program director for KFBZ-FM, one of the stations involved.

"You look at where you drive to school or work, and they're all over," he said.

It was an idea he had seen work in Seattle; Richmond, Va.; and Houston. But it didn't work in Wichita, McKay said.

"People here in Wichita are pretty adamant about their signs," he said.

More than 120 people called Sedgwick County's political parties complaining about missing signs. It's unclear how many of them were directly tied to the promotion.

A lawyer for the county's Republican Party is reviewing what it can do legally about the promotion and how to prevent it from happening again, said Kelly Arnold, executive director.

Some residents were upset because they paid $2 to $3 for presidential campaign signs and hoped the signs would become collectibles.

Also, local candidates, who spend thousands of dollars on yard signs, often reuse them.

Jackie Wise, vice president and general manager for Entercom Wichita, which owns KFBZ-FM and KDGS-FM, said the company will sort signs for candidates and residents who want them back. The company already has arranged to deliver signs to at least two candidates.

"We wanted to help the city; we wanted to clean up the signs," Wise said.

By 5 p.m. Thursday, the company had collected more than 6,000 signs, she said.

Democratic state Rep. Geraldine Flaharty said she had reused many of her signs since 1996. About 15 of her signs, which were propped against a garage at her home, were taken Wednesday afternoon, she said.

"Somebody thought they had a good idea to clean up roadside litter," she said. "But my signs weren't on the roadside."

The problem started about 6 a.m. Wednesday when KDGS announced that it would give $1 for each sign listeners brought to the studio, said McKay. The station was very clear that listeners should not go on private property, McKay said.

In less than two hours it had paid $2,049 for signs.

"I guess we had a few people that didn't follow directions," McKay said.

KDGS began the same promotion later in the morning and asked listeners to bring in signs for money at 4 p.m. Thursday.

"For the most part, it's a great, fun event," McKay said. "It was 99 percent a great thing."

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