Inquirer: Candidates need to watch where their signs are placed

mowen@ledger-enquirer.comMay 4, 2014 

MIKE OWEN/mowen@ledger-enquirer.comOne school board candidate, or a supporter, put this sign in the sidewalk at one end of a Double Churches Road bridge.

A Concerned Candidate called to complain about other candidates not playing by the rules.

No, no one's buying votes or handing out half-pints of liquor at the early voting sites, as far as we know. (No one offered me anything but a little sticker when I voted.)

The problem, school board candidate Frank Myers says, is some candidates, or their supporters, are apparently unaware about the rules for sticking campaign signs in the ground. The funny thing is, Myers isn't pointing fingers at his District 8 opponent, incumbent Beth Harris. The problem appears to be more rampant in the District 2 race, where incumbent John Wells faces a handful of opponents.

Myers said I should check out the signs along Double Churches Road, especially one that is stuck in either a crack in the concrete or an expansion joint at one end of the bridge over Interstate 185.

So I drove out there and sure enough, someone supporting District 2 challenger John "Bart" Steed has stuck a campaign sign just as Myers reported. Funny thing, on the way out there on River Road, I saw numerous signs along the public right of way, which is a no-no, according to city code.

The Columbus Elections and Registration Office website includes this advisory for candidates (and their supporters):

"The comprehensive sign ordinance, adopted by Columbus Council, February 10, 1998, requires political signs to be three feet inside the property line. Signs may not be placed on the public right-of-way.

"A simple rule of thumb to determine the right-of-way is three feet behind the imaginary line formed by utility poles, three feet behind a sidewalk, or three feet beyond the back slope of a right-of-way ditch line if there are no poles or sidewalks.

"Any signs found in violation of the Sign Ordinance will be removed."

The website also says to feel free to contact the city's Inspections and Code Department if you have any questions, which I did, so I felt free to call.

Remoh Thompson, the department's sign inspector, said he patrols the city streets every day, not only inspecting signs that may have been reported, but keeping an eye out for misplaced signs or those that might otherwise be in violation.

He's not just a political sign inspector, of course. He's there to enforce all aspects of the city's sign ordinance. That runs the spectrum from towering billboards to hand-scrawled cardboard yard-sale signs.

If he sees a sign on a city right of way, he stops, plucks it up (no, not the towering billboards) and tosses it into the back of his pickup.

And then?

"They go straight to the recycling center," he said.

And thus the recalcitrant candidate (though it's more likely a supporter, Thompson said) makes a contribution, however small, to the city's Integrated Waste Fund.

Talk about servant leadership.

Update

AT&T has finally replaced the cracked utility pole on Veterans Parkway we wrote about last year, so Concerned Artist Maria can continue to do her artwork without worrying about being flattened by a few hundred pounds of creosote-soaked yellow pine.

-- Seen something that needs attention? Contact me at 706-571-8570 or mowen@ledger-enquirer.com.

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