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.