Georgia

City authorities respond to Columbus complaints against illegal campaign signs

COLUMBUS, Ga. (WRBL) - Election season is underway, which means enthusiastic campaign volunteers are out in Columbus streets putting up signs to call support for their candidates. However, staff and special enforcement with the Columbus Consolidated Inspections and Code Department say whenever this time rolls around, they end up rolling down the same streets taking the illegally placed signs right back down again.

"Since election season has started, we've kind of periodically gone to some of the more frequent intersections," says Director John Hudgison. "We try to stay along the major roads right now, but we're starting to get more and more complaints in neighborhoods and subdivisions because of how many signs are going out."

Hudgison showed News 3's Mikhaela Singleton a letter given to all participating candidates. The letter reminds them it is illegal to place campaign signs in a city right-of-way.

"One of the things about the sign ordinance is trying to keep people from detracting from the signs that need to be on the right of way," Hudgison says while looking at photos of election endorsements directly beneath road caution signs.

"These signs could fall into the roadway, something like that, or if someone is looking to see where they need to turn and instead they're looking down at a campaign sign. Yeah, these will definitely be removed today," he adds.

News 3 caught up with Special Enforcement Officer Remoh Thompson on his way to remove campaign signs at the intersection of 13th Street and Peacock Avenue.

"I'm the only one who rides around the whole county," Thompson explains. "Sometimes people call in to tell us where the signs are, and that helps a lot." 

He adds sign woes go beyond election season.

"There are yard sale signs, firewood signs, pooper scoop signs, there's so many different signs you see out there. You'd be surprised how many signs in the city of Columbus that are out there on a daily basis that I pick up," Thompson says.

Hudgison also adds on top of keeping signs out of public right-of-way, campaign volunteers also need to remember there are rules about putting signs in front yards and businesses.

"If the business or homeowner has given consent and they want to support that candidate, then we are all for it, but if we find that sign has been put out where it shouldn't be, we will pick them up," Hudgison says. "We bring them here to our office and we try to sort them out between which candidate or business. Our first intention is never to just throw them away, but if the trash comes and they're still here, then those signs are gone."

Click here to report an illegal or improperly placed sign via the Columbus Consolidated Inspections and Code Department online portal.

News 3 also reached out to local candidates to hear their response to illegally placed campaign signs. Responses are in order as they were received (campaign):

  • John House (Columbus City Council, District 10): "We have some of the best volunteers and they're very enthusiastic. I'm sure in their excitement and in trying to do the right thing, a few may have put out signs without checking first. I know I have advised and we always advise them where they should be putting those signs out, but there is a right way and if the city finds something we've done wrong we will correct it. The most irritating thing to me is when I have gone to the trouble to ask the property owner to put a sign out, for someone to then come out and put up a sign that specifically blocks my sign. That's happening and it's irritating, but we can only ask the other folks in the campaign not to do that."
  • Skip Henderson (Mayor): "Thanks for the opportunity to respond regarding placement of campaign signs. We try to make sure all of our volunteers have correct information with regards to the legal and proper placement of signs.  We have placed around 1,000 signs and as far as I know, all have been placed on private property, in supporter's yards.  The only one I have seen placed in error was the one that showed up on Facebook and we immediately removed it.  We are very grateful for so many people's willingness to show their support by requesting and displaying yard signs."
  • Andy Prather (State Court Judge): "This is not a new problem. I know some of my yard signs were placed on city right-of-ways, medians, on private property without the owners permission and in the windows of some pretty shady business establishments.  To the best of my recollection did not put any of the signs in such places and whenever I saw them in such places promptly removed them .... well .... except for a couple of shady business establishments because in certain industries it would have been seen as a sign of disrespect that could have adversely affected the health and wellbeing of me and my family."
  • Sia Etemadi (City Council, District 7):"We have asked members of our team to put yard signs on permitted private property.  Of course, we have many supporters and once the signs leave our control we have no way to know where they are being placed. As long as the enforcement is applied to all candidates, incumbents and challengers, we support the Consolidated Government in their efforts to protect right of way."
  • Jeremy S. Hobbs (City Council, District 7): "Our campaign is following the guidelines set before us regarding campaign sign placement.  We have only put signs where Property owners or business owners have allowed us to place them.  We take pride in making sure we follow the rules of inspections and codes.  There are candidates who have a wealth of signs to place and don't care if they get picked up as long they get to advertise until they are picked up.  We unfortunately don't have that kind of money to throw around and will make sure we do everything by the rules and ensure our friends of HOBBS 2018 we are good stewards and responsible with their contributions."
  •  Reggie Liparoto (City Council, District 9): "I have never been a fan or big believer in campaign signs along roadways. I think the marketing stats may prove name recognition but are not clear on election results. They are expensive! I have not purchased many because I believe the restrictions ( which I respect) and the sign criminals, the rearranging of signs, stealing, and destruction of signs out weigh the value.  Not to mention the sign pollution from crowding the candidates signs on top of one another. I hope yard signs and roadside campaign signs become a thing of the past; social media and tv and radio ads are much more productive and respected. The candidate looses control of his investment In signs once they leave their management hands. I've seen candidate signs in the wrong districts, in dumpsters,placed in yards and roadsides that are against candidates platforms; like code enforcement violations etc.. I think it just gets out of control."

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