Time for them to come down

Published 11:04 am Thursday, November 20, 2008

By Staff
Officials in Winston-Salem are serious when it comes to removing campaign signs found on public property along roads and sidewalks in that city after elections.
They are levying a $50 fine for each sign left on public property, no matter who erected the sign. The city also targets signs put up by real-estate agents, restaurants and other businesses.
The Winston-Salem Journal reported that one candidate for the Forsyth County Board of Commissioners has been fined $1,700 so far. Dave Plyler, the candidate who has been fined, said that his campaign workers contend they did not erect the signs.
According to Winston-Salem records, that city has levied $8,500 in fines since last year, when the law took effect.
Perhaps such a law is something that area counties, cities and towns should consider enacting, if they have not done so. It would help stimulate candidates when it comes to removing their campaign signs. Candidates are anxious to place their signs anywhere they can before Election Day, with their signs popping up like mushrooms after a rain. Many of them do not seem that anxious to take down those signs after Election Day.
A law similar to the one on the books in Winston-Salem may help motivate them to remove such signs from public property.
Candidates should not be required to remove their signs the day after an election, but those signs should be removed no later than two weeks after an election. And that’s being somewhat generous.
Such a law is not about the revenue such fines would generate, but it is about keeping the county, city or town from being littered with abandoned campaign signs, which become unsightly after time.
Don’t get us wrong. Campaign signs have been, are and will continue to be a part of the American political experience, but there is a time and place for them. That time is not after Election Day and the place is not on public property after Election Day. One could argue such signs do not belong on public property at anytime.
There are plenty of state laws pertaining to the placement of campaign signs before an election. When it comes to removing them after the election, the state only requires candidates to make a good-faith effort to remove them, according to Anita Bullock Branch, deputy director of the Beaufort County Board of Elections.
Perhaps the state should consider a law that calls for the removal of campaign signs within a specified period of time after an election. That law should contain a provision for a fine or some other type of punishment for a candidate who ignores that law. Knowing that it is possible that a candidate may not know the location of each sign erected by his or her campaign, the law could contain a provision that would allow a candidate a “get-out-of-jail” card for a specific number of signs — let us say five signs — he or she failed to remove. For every sign over the limit, a fine should be imposed.
The City of Washington forbids campaign signs on public property or its rights of way within its jurisdiction. Such signs must be on private property, according to Bobby Roberson, the city’s director of planning and development.
If the city finds such signs on its property or rights of way, it will remove those signs, Roberson noted.
Talk about a sign of the times.