A sore sight for city's eyes

For weeks, they've lined streets and yards, advertising candidates and the offices they sought. Now, with Tuesday's election over, the campaign signs are just litter in the eyes of Jake Wilson.

He heads Keep Mecklenburg Beautiful. Last month, Wilson asked every candidate in Mecklenburg to sign a pledge they would remove their signs by Nov. 12.

Fifty-seven signed.

“Everyone is becoming more aware of the litter issue, so it's in the candidates' best interest to have them removed,” Wilson said. “Their name is on it.”

Beyond embarrassment, signs that are illegally posted could cost them money.

A year ago, the Charlotte City Council raised the fine and changed who pays for it. Council members outlawed any privately posted sign in a public right of way – the first 11 feet of ground or sidewalk from the edge of street pavement.

Fines are substantial: $100 per sign for the first five signs; $500 per sign for six to 10 violating signs; and $1,000 per sign for 11 or more in a city right of way.

The person whose name is on the sign, including politicians, pays the fine.

Charlotte officials require candidates to post a $50 bond when they file with the elections board. If they remove all their signs within a week after the election, they get their $50 back.

Most forfeit the bond, said Walter Abernethy, the city's code enforcement division manager.

“Most candidates are great about getting them down,” Abernethy said. “Some of them are slower to do it.”

Abernethy said his division can remove violating signs, but can't touch signs on private property.

“Most homeowners are good about taking their signs down,” he said.

In his 34 years with code enforcement, he's fined many candidates. He suggests candidates ask supporters to back-track and remove signs.

If there are signs still up on public property after next Tuesday, he wants to know about them. So call 311 and file a complaint.

“My guess is that we'll have a few signs out there next week,” Abernethy said. “But most of the problem will be gone.”