A new season is about to burst upon us. Campaign season should start in earnest within the next few weeks. In Oakley three seats on the Oakley City Council are up for grabs. Oakley City Council woman Vanessa Perry has decided not to run for reelection. As of July 29th, 2016, Randi Adler, Claire Alaura, Michael Dupray, Doug Hardcastle, Bruno Korbmacher, Dezi Pina, and Kevin Romick have pulled papers.
With the campaign season comes signs. Campaign signs should start popping up, nearly as prolific as the spring wildflowers and in every conceivable location.
Let’s be up front about it – campaign signs are generally ugly. Empty fields are cluttered with them, fences are covered by them, before November 8 if an object hasn’t moved in a week it will probably have a sign attached to it. To cop the chorus from a song written by the Five Man Electrical Band in the song Signs – “Sign Sign everywhere a sign. Blocking out the scenery breaking my mind….”
Cities and Counties have some rights to regulate size and location. In the case Members of the City Council of the City of Los Angeles v. Taxpayers for Vincent, 466 U.S. 789, 817 (1984), the Supreme Court ruled that the City of Los Angeles has the right to prohibit signs on public property because “Municipalities have a weighty, essentially esthetic interest in proscribing intrusive and unpleasant formats for expression. The problem addressed by § 28.04 — the visual assault on the citizens of Los Angeles presented by an accumulation of signs posted on public property — constitutes a significant substantive evil within the City’s power to prohibit.”
On private property the Supreme Court ruled in a unanimous decision (see City of Ladue v. Gilleo, 114 S. Ct. 2038 (1994)), that cities may not bar residents from posting political signs on their own property. The Court wrote that, even if the ban did not favor some speech over others (in effect, a ban on all signs), it would still be unconstitutional because it prohibited too much speech.
In most states, counties and cities law dictates when and for how long political signs may be posted. These limitations vary by state, county and city. In the City of Oakley will allow political signs to go up 90 days before an election and then requires that they be removed within 10 days after the election.
Oakley’s municipal code prohibits political signs posted or attached to any fence, bench, pole, tree, or other living vegetation, or to any object in a public right-of-way. Political campaign signs may be displayed on private property with the property owner’s consent.
So, just how important are signs in a campaign. I asked political consultant, Raymond Ehrlich of Ehrlich Campaigns for his opinion. He stated – “Signs are very expensive and require a lot of time to post and maintain, the return on investment for signage isn’t very good. So, they’re not essential to winning elections, studies have proven that.
With that, signs are important to maintaining the moral of everyone involved in a campaign, providing tangible proof work is being done on behalf of the candidate or measure. Without adequate sign coverage, people, most likely campaign supporters, will ask, or demand, that more attention and funds be spent on sign coverage. In my experience, it’s best to put a strong effort towards signs, early, to avoid what would be inevitable questions or concerns.”
I’m not sure how much signs sway voters. They can provide some exposure, especially if you are unknown to the public. How many are necessary? I don’t know but there are occasions when the candidates seem to try to out sign each other.