Allen Paine, chairman of the Park Commission, voiced the frustrations of many Oklahoma City residents this week when he said, “I don’t understand why it’s the taxpayers’ responsibility to pick up political signs.”
Most of the signs that appeared leading up to Tuesday’s primary election were illegal, but is there anything citizens can do about it?
The answer is yes. Neighborhoods can organize sign sweeps and residents can report illegal signs to the city.
Here’s a rundown on the rules, how they’re enforced and who’s responsible, along with information on how to fight sign blight.
Q: Why should I care about illegal signs?
A: Putting advertisements and campaign signs in the city right-of-way; in street, boulevard and expressway medians; in parks, and on poles is littering. “Litter on a stick is an eyesore and makes Oklahoma City look ugly,” said Kristy Yager, the city’s spokeswoman.
Q: How much is this costing me?
A: More than $30,000 per year. Oklahoma City has four part-time employees who pick up illegal signs year-round; their salaries come to $32,500. In addition, 20 building inspectors can collect signs while going to and from appointments. A litter crew from the Utilities Department collects signs daily.
Q: How many illegal signs does the city collect in a year?
A: Crews typically collect 50,000 signs annually, but the number can rise to 90,000 in an election year. Ordinances require they be thrown away.
Q: Who enforces the rules?
A: Code inspectors can write tickets when they see someone putting up an illegal sign. It’s a Class A offense punishable by a fine of up to $500.
Q: Are candidates responsible for illegal campaign signs?
A: The people who actually put the signs out are responsible for them.
Q: Can my neighborhood organize a “sign patrol?”
A: Residents fed up with illegal signs can participate in a program specifically for neighborhood associations, Yager said. “Sign sweep” volunteers are required to get training and sign an agreement with the city prior to participation.
Q: The runoff election is Aug. 26 and the general election Nov. 4. I have a favorite candidate; where can I put a campaign sign?
A: You can put a campaign sign in your yard.
Q: How can I learn more? Can I notify the city if I see an illegal sign?
A: Call your neighborhood or homeowners association, or contact the Neighborhood Alliance at 528-6322. For information about organizing a sign sweep, call David Oen at 297-3795. To report an illegal sign, call the city’s Action Center at 297-2535 or (better because they’re so busy in the summer) go online to okc.gov and click on the Action Center link in the upper right-hand corner.