Sign, sign, everywhere a sign

Published On:
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
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Take a look around any intersection in Tempe , and one thing is evident — politicians really want to be seen. Or at least they want their names seen.

They are red. They are blue. They are all sorts of colors. They tell locals to vote for this person, or that person; to vote “yes” or “no” on this proposition or that proposition.

Months before the actual election is held, signs go up and stay up. At least until the election is over — so one would hope.

According to the City of Tempe , signs can pretty much go up anywhere on city property, so long as the sign doesn’t interfere with the city’s “right-of-way” guidelines.

The “right-of-way” is described as “the outer edge of the sidewalk on one side of a street to the outer edge of the sidewalk on the other side of that street, including all parkways and medians in between,” — posting on private property must be done with prior consent of the owner, according to the Political Campaign Sign Information packet.

Anyone running for an office, or cheerleading for any cause, can simply apply through the City Clerk’s office for the right to post signs. The guidelines for sign posting are clearly stated in the Political Campaign Sign Information packet. Each person that applies to the city must also take a copy of the documents. This ensures that each candidate will have a firm grasp of the main rule — they have 10 days after the election to remove any sign with their name on it..

The signs go up — usually through the help of volunteers. Whether or not signs actually work is one thing. But what happens after the election is over? Who then takes down the signs?

“We’ve been pretty lucky here in Tempe ,” says Jeff Tamulevich, who works in the City of Tempe ’s Commercial Code Compliance office. “Most of the campaigns have done a pretty good job of removing their signs in the past.”

When a sign is not removed in the designated 10 day post-election window, Tamulevich’s office will contact the campaign directly, informing them of a sign that is still up. They will then have one hour to remove the sign — or else it becomes city property. This is really the only form of punishment the City can levy against a particular candidate. No fines exist.

"During election seasons, the intersections always get cluttered with signs," says Russel Waters, a retired Tempe resident. "I take daily walks around the neighborhood, and it's just a shame to see it. They really make the streets look bad."

“Harry Mitchell for Congress” is just one of the campaigns that have signs posted across the city. According to Mitchell’s campaign they’ve never had any issues with signs. The volunteers that put them up take them down soon after the election. The signs are kept in Mitchell’s personal storage facility — just in case he runs for re-election.

Citizens of Tempe are free to call Tamulevich’s office with a complaint about signs — bearing in mind that disdain for a particular candidate is not a true complaint. “We look into each complaint we receive,” says Tamulevich.

There may be a lot of signs — but that doesn’t mean they can’t come down.

Reach the reporter at mel.flores@asu.edu.