Signs of the times

Signs of the times

April 9th, 2010 by Cliff Hightower in Politics Local

Peppering the sides of city roundabouts two days ago, campaign signs informed motorists of "Gobble for Congress" and "Levi for Trustee" campaigns.

The problem? It's illegal.

Two years ago, the Chattanooga City Council voted to amend the city code and prohibit election signs from roundabouts and medians.

PDF: Chattanooga city code regarding political signs

CHATTANOOGA CITY CODE

A section of the city code regulates political signs. Some of the rules include:

* Political signs cannot be placed in roundabouts or medians.

* Signs must be seven feet from the curb or street.

* Signs must be removed 15 days after election day.

* Signs cannot be nailed or posted to sidewalks, lampposts, telephone poles or trees.

Source: Chattanooga City Code

Now, each candidate gets a copy of the rules, said Charlotte Mullis-Morgan, deputy administrator for the Hamilton County Election Commission.

"I give them a three-page article," she said. "I've told them to go by it. Every candidate gets this. They don't read it."

Campaigns for County Trustee Carl Levi, who is running for re-election, and Bradley County Sheriff Tim Gobble, who is running for U.S. Congress, placed signs along the roundabouts of Access Road near the Chickamauga Dam this week. Alerted to the law, representatives of both campaigns quickly took them down.

Other campaign signs have been seen along the roundabout at the foot of Signal Mountain's W Road.

City Zoning Inspector Richard Hutsell said when city workers see the signs or hear complaints, they will take them down and alert the campaigns.

"I hesitate to shed blame on a particular candidate," he said. "Sometimes, they don't even know where all of their signs are."

He said the city never has cited anyone to court for not complying. Most of the time, the placing of the signs is inadvertent, he said.

But the rules are in place for safety measures and to ensure drivers' visibility, he said.

When contacted Wednesday, Mr. Levi said he did not know the signs were on the roundabouts.

"You're not supposed to have them there," he said. "I know that."

Staff Photo by Allison Kwesell/Chattanooga Times Free Press Traffic goes around the roundabout near the Chickamauga Dam.

He said things sometimes happen with his signs that he does not know about. He said County Commissioner Bill Hullander, who is running against him in the trustee race, called him last week to tell him two "Levi" signs were put in front of Mr. Hullander's campaign headquarters.

Jeff Lewis, spokesman for Sheriff Gobble's campaign, said Wednesday some "overzealous" volunteers placed signs all across the city where they shouldn't be.

"I've been pulling them up all week," he said.

He said sometimes volunteers can get too carried away and not think of the rules.

"They're on fire and want to do something," he said.