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“Litter on a stick”

I think the saddest thing about this story is that it’s basically the only mainstream media coverage the At Large #2 race has received.

Houston Mayor Annise Parker announced a crackdown on so-called bandit signs Wednesday, pledging to issue fines to political candidates and others who illegally post their signs on city land.

The announcement comes less than a month before early voting in her re-election campaign. Parker said election season is when signs proliferate and that the city spent $450,000 in 2009 to take them down. The $200-per-offense fines aim to recover the city’s costs.

“This is about quality of life in our city. This is about visual pollution, and this is about someone trampling on the public right of way and intruding in the public space. And it is about tax dollars – $450,000 a year to deal with illegally placed signs,” Parker said during a news conference following Wednesday’s City Council meeting.

[...]

Candidates confronted by allegations that they are breaking the law typically distance themselves from direct responsibility by claiming overzealous volunteers have illegally placed the signs without the campaign’s authorization. Parker said she did not know of a single instance in which a candidate had been fined. City ordinance calls for a fine of $100 to $500 per sign per day to those responsible for illegally posted signs.

City Council candidate Eric Dick has received the most notoriety this year for his seemingly ubiquitous red signs.

“I think she’s trying to use her position as mayor to fine other candidates that disagree with her. It’s kind of tyranny,” Dick said.

KTRK has additional coverage. Let’s take Eric Dick at his oft-stated word that his ubiquitous illegal signs are solely the responsibility of unnamed and unpaid campaign volunteers. Putting aside the question of where one finds such dedicated yet untrainable volunteers, once the signs are up, who’s responsible for the cost to take them down? It is, after all, the taxpayers, whose interests every candidate that has ever run for office vows to watch out for, that ultimately foot the bill for their removal. If the city, on behalf of those taxpayers, decides to present that bill to those who incurred the cost, who would Eric Dick say they should be? I presume he has some idea who his volunteers are, even if he has no control over what they do. Wouldn’t the right thing for Eric Dick to do, after promising that his campaign volunteers would no longer be given signs to distribute since clearly they cannot be trusted to do so in a legal manner, be to provide the names of those volunteers whom he believes must have hung those illegal signs, so they can be made to give restitution to the people of Houston?

That’s what I’d do, if I wanted to convince people that I was an honorable person and a fiscally responsible steward of their tax dollars. Alternately, I could send out a sniggering press release that makes the Harvey Richards argument that “hey, everybody does it” and hope that nobody is too paying enough attention to notice that the taxpayers are left holding the bag. That wouldn’t be my first choice, but then I would not have found myself in that position to begin with, so there you go. Greg, Perry, and John have more.

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10 Comments

  1. Al Clarke says:

    I plan to help reduce the amount of “trash on a stick” by personally removing political signage whenever and where ever I see it. I especially enjoying removing the signage of candidates I plan not to support. If fact, that is usually the signage I notice and seems to be an eyesore in my opinion. One less eyesore and it can be done at no expense to taxpayers. Wonder when someone will advise me that I am violating the free speech rights of candidates or perhaps committing an offense by removing such items?
    Eric Dick or any other political candidate should not be held responsible for the actions of his/her volunteers in posting or removing signage.

  2. JJMB says:

    Al — Should Dick be responsible for his paid employees? Every political insider knows who put up most of those signs, and was paid to do so.

  3. I don’t follow your logic, Al. We’re talking about signs that are illegally placed on public right of way, including on utility poles. Everybody knows, or at least everybody who runs for office should know, that this is forbidden by city ordinances. Surely one expects that a lawyer would know that. What is the problem with removing these illegally placed signs, and with enforcing the penalties for putting them up? Please help me understand your position.

    My point is that Dick has disclaimed all responsibility for these actions that have been taken on behalf of his campaign, whether by “volunteers” or paid professionals, which as JJ indicates is what everyone knows to be true and for which there is significant evidence in his finance reports. If he wants us to accept that he personally has no responsibility for these illegal actions, then does he not at least have some responsibility to tell us what he knows about who these “volunteers” are? I don’t see how his actions are consistent with his pledge as a candidate for public office to be responsible for the welfare of his constituents.

  4. robert kane says:

    Where was this argument and I was running???

    I went in front of council and everyone just looked at me as to say….”and so what, everyone does it”

    Sue Lovell just blew me off and told me to take them down if I saw them where they shouldn’t be. She said we can’t fine anyone because we don’t know who actually placed them there.

    I think in the article mentioned even said they found one of Anise Parkers signs from 2009,lol

    I just don’t get how backwards the city can be…. only 2 council members worth their paycheck, IMO.

  5. Robert, in 2009 there was nobody putting hundreds of signs at the top of utility poles. What we’re seeing this year is unprecedented, and so it’s getting closer scrutiny. I don’t see any problem with that.

  6. landslide says:

    I have to say that as long as I’ve been involved in politics, I’ve seen this kind of thing and in the past no one has bothered with it, usually because the people who do that don’t win–they have no supporters with yards in which to put their signs, so they put them everywhere. Until very recently, i still saw Orlando Sanchez signs on the tops of telephone polls from 2003! And who could forget the proliferation of Lloyd Oliver signs on every possible space in a freeway rights-of-way? My personal favorite was the handy sign-recycling program by Patricia Rodriguez in 2002 primary against JP Armando Rodriguez, in which her signs were simply someone else’s “repurposed” sign painted white with her name and slogan stenciled in pink. They were really were litter on a stick! They blanketed Pct 6, but she failed to unseat the incumbent.

    I think the “bandit sign” thing may have accelerated a little since Michael Berry first ran. He had so many signs up and was so visible in that way that he not only got his name ID to the point of winning a citywide race while limiting other, more expensive forms of campaigning (he did some mail and a TV commercial in the runoff). Is it possible that others are following that lead? It worked for him.

    But people have started tiring of it, so now Mr. Dick is getting singled out.

  7. Greg Wythe says:

    Robert,

    Believe me, the issue was there in 2009. That was the cycle that at least sparked the idea of creating The Empty Lot Primary due to the Gene Locke signage sprouting up in every imaginable illegal placement. It was there far earlier, as well. The Orlando Sanchez reference by landslide is notable since it was the same person who placed the utility post campaign signs for Sanchez that’s doing it for Eric Dick. Likewise, it’s not a surprise that Sanchez is endorsing Dick in this contest.

  8. Joshua bullard says:

    allow me-when the energy of any situation overwhelms those that feel they are privi to special treatment just becuase they go strictly by the book-let me assure you and any one listening-sometimes going by the book becomes mundaine-dated-dull-unfasionable,the biggest problem we face in campaigns-not local politics/is when you mix the two-,current local goverment has no place in local campaigns-its a state issue all day long. what people are witnessing is pure passion to serve the the people being demonstrated by the canidates that push the envelope/yet still stay with in the law.To DATE theres still no witness-no video- as to who is putting up those signs and you know what?i dont think canidate eric dick has any knowledge whatsoever as to who is putting up those signs but ill go on record and say this-i wouldnt be surprised if one or maybe even two of his oppenents are actually the ones that are putting up those signs-i swear to god i actaully think its his opponents that are doing it and i think if the mayor is going to look to try to expose the person or persons she needs to start with the opponents to mr eric dick-iam sorry but i must express my feelings-it is unfare and malicous to have anyone make blind accusations against a solid canidate that deserves an equal opportunity to touch the hearts of houstonians-and run a fare race.
    respectfully submitted joshua ben bullard

  9. landslide says:

    Greg-
    Thanks for reminding me about the “Empty Lot Primary”, I forgot about that!

  10. insanityrules says:

    I sincerely hope Dick wins this race…and I really think this Rick guy is being paid by Anise Parker …first to put up the signs and then to get some media attention while he is painting over them….why isn’t he painting over her signs that have been hanging for years!

    And…I LOVE the street art guy that painted the George Washington Dick’s!!! Awesome!!! I’m sure that really hurt poor ole Ricky’s feelings!!!

    Every time there is an election there are signs…whoever has the most signs out gets picked on the most! It’s all kiddy games! He who has the most toys wins!

    You guys need to quit crying and just face it….DICK RULES!!!! He has a huge following, I have seen his campaign and/or volunteers everywhere…all of the festivals and parades…bumper stickers, yard signs…gotta be hard to keep track of all of that…
    WISH I HAD A CHERRY PICKER BECAUSE I’D LOVE TO HANG SOME DICK’S UP HIGH ON SOME POLES!!!!

    AND ALL OF THIS MEDIA…WAY TO GET THE NAME OUT GUYS!!!!KUDOS TO DICK!!! KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK!

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