Monday, October 28, 2013

Sign Language

‘Tis the season…for campaign yard signs! Nobody really likes them, but they are effective ways for candidates to gain name recognition and for residents to show support, so I suppose they aren’t going to go away.

part of my district (2-3) in sign per candidate! (2010)
As a committeeperson (who are the journeymen and women of each party who do the political grunt work on the ground to get candidates elected), one of my duties is to put out such yard signs for candidates on our ballot.

I take a lot of pride in the work I do.  I don’t put out too many signs, make sure they get replaced or stand them back up if they fall over, and I get rid of them quickly when the election is over. In  representing my own voting district,  I always ask permission from the property owner (even when they’ve allowed me to place signs previously) and I always commit to picking up signs I’ve placed as soon as the election is over because I know people don’t really like looking at them. Usually, the same evening after the polls close, and certainly no later than the next day, I’ve pulled all of mine.

Some elections are worse than others. The 2011 election was memorable for the sheer number of candidates (county commissioners, county row officers, local school boards and local township supervisors/borough commissioners) all up at the same time. With numerous candidates, the signage to promote them all was off the hook.
However, in all the years I’ve worked on campaigns or been a candidate myself, I never saw anything like what greeted me this past Saturday afternoon when I was out running errands. All up and down Ridge Pike through Lower Providence, one candidate had literally carpet-bombed us with their yard signs. There were literally 25 or 30 placed on EACH SIDE of some intersections, and spaced so closely that no other candidates’ signs (of either party, for all contests) were readable. It was a truly obnoxious display of self-promotion.

Worse, with the 35-mph winds that day, some of the sleeves had blown off the stakes and were flying loose into the adjacent lawns or the street.  They weren’t sunk into the ground well, so some were twisted sideways or had been blown completely over onto the ground. Some signs I’d placed within my voting district were pulled out of the ground and tossed aside in the process of this invasion.  All in all, it looked absolutely hideous and it was visually overwhelming.  

I don’t mind saying that the signs were placed by a candidate from my own party, but had anyone come to LP and done this, I’d have had the same reaction.
2-3 polling place, primary election, 2013
You should also know that it’s against the law to remove campaign yard signs you did not place, yard signs belonging to another candidate, and removing signs on private property. I believe it’s a misdemeanor and there’s a fine involved if caught and convicted. It’s also considered bad form to drop signs on someone’s property without their permission, a practice I’m aware that one of the candidates running for supervisor this year has been doing. Thus, there wasn’t much I could do myself since I was not the property owner where the signs were placed and I did not place them myself.
Outraged at this veritable trashing of our community, I contacted our municipal party leader, Jim Van Horn, who, for reasons unknown, was utterly uninterested in doing anything. I was told “there’s nothing we can do about it”.  Faced with this unwillingness to confront the perpetrator, I contacted the individual – again, a member of my own party - myself. Giving the benefit of the doubt, I explained that aside from the larger issue of what happened and how terrible it looked, I also expressed my opinion that trashing up our community this way not only made this particular candidate look bad, but it reflected poorly upon our party and my fear that disgusted voters would take it out on her and potentially other candidates on our ballot on election day. At that point I’d already heard from two voters who saw the mess after I did and had called to ask about how it came to be there.
I was frankly also fearful that my constituents who live here and friends who traverse through LP, knowing that I place campaign signs in my district, would think that I was responsible for this visual assault. No committeeperson I know of either party in this area would ever have placed this many signs in this way. Not to mention, signs aren’t cheap, and it’s waste of a resource to place so many in one area.
I am happy to report that the candidate was horrified, and relayed that a third-party contractor was purportedly hired to place their signs, but they were never told to place so many signs so closely together. The candidate agreed with my assessment and by 9:30 Sunday morning, the vast majority of them had been removed. I applaud their responsiveness and concern for our community; they communicated with me several times to assure that they’d done a good enough job of repairing the damage. While there are still a number of them around, at a ratio that I’d say is about 5:1 of every other candidate’s sign out there, it’s far better than it was.
Whatever your personal feelings about campaign yard signs, just know that come November 6, the day after the election, they’ll all be going away…until next spring’s primary!

1 comment:

Pat Nogar said...

Thank you Janice for your vigilance. Our community is fortunate to have a person like you involved in the political process. Whenever I get cynical I think of you and remind myself of your commitment and the good that you do.