published Monday, August 6th, 2012

Cleaning up political clutter

There is a certain ebb and flow to the placement of political signs in yards, in front of retail and commercial establishments and along public rights-of-way and neighborhood intersections across the region. They begin to appear early in the campaign season and then multiply quickly as Election Day approaches. They disappear when voting is concluded. Unfortunately, many candidates and their supporters are far more eager to place the signs in public view before an election than they are to remove them after voting has occurred.

That, fortunately, is not always the case. Shortly before midnight Thursday, a Times Free Press staff member reports, a man was removing political signs at an intersection on Signal Mountain. That is, to say the least, getting an early start on cleaning-up post-election clutter. Other candidates and their supporters need not act with the same haste as the gentleman on Signal Mountain, but similarly prompt action would be welcomed.

There are indications that such a clean-up already is underway. Some signs were removed on Friday and the number of signs on display around the tristate region continued to diminish steadily over the weekend. The prompt work is appreciated.

Local and state laws don't have a lot to say about the removal of political signs, but generally require that they be removed from public property and rights of way within a few weeks. Violating the law is a misdemeanor, but the minimal penalties attached are rarely enforced. Still, candidates have an obligation to remove the signs from public property promptly, and to encourage supporters who have placed colorful signage on private property to take them down as well.

Removing the signs is not too much to ask of a political candidate. If a candidate is extended the right to put up a sign in a public place that right conveys an obligation to remove the sign once the campaign in concluded. That seems an eminently fair requirement that balances a would-be officeholder's right to proclaim his or candidacy with the sensible notion that one should always clean up their own mess.

Much as some might want a return to a landscape free of political signs, that's unlikely to happen soon. Political signs touting those in upcoming run-off races or those who are on the ballot in November can remain. Indeed, it is likely that the number of signs will again multiply as another Election Day approaches.

For the moment, though, area residents should be grateful that most candidates who are required to do so already are removing their signs. That's a valuable community service and a welcome mark of responsibility and good citizenship.

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