Signs of the time

Published 11:00 pm Friday, June 8, 2012

The signs are clear – literally.

Even if there wasn’t a calendar nearby, it’s easy to tell this year is an election year. Political candidate signs are already popping up along roadways and in neighborhoods.

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“It’s not a huge part of our business, but it’s noticeable,” said Jennifer Banta, owner of Sticky Frogs Signs and T-shirts in Troy. “Political signs are probably about 5 to 10 percent of our business.”

But it’s a business that’s growing. Banta said some candidates are looking for package deals where they can order car magnets, T-shirts and different types of promotional items to go along with standard yard signs.

“The yard signs are still our biggest seller for candidates though,” Banta said, adding that they cost about $12 without a stand.

And purchasing signs and magnets with a name in big, bold print is a must for people looking to seriously compete for a position, according to one candidate.

“It is solely name recognition,” said Pike County Circuit Clerk Jamie Scarbrough who is seeking re-election. “It’s seeing your name over and over and hoping it sticks in a voter’s mind when they head to the polls.”

But does that really work? Scarbrough said, “Yes.”

“There are names throughout many years that I can remember. Driving down the highway, or going through neighborhoods, there are names that I can still see clearly,” she shared.

But publicizing your name can come at a hefty price considering some candidates go beyond signage to include newspaper, radio and television advertising.

The whole shebang can cost an estimated $15,000 to $20,000 for running a countywide campaign. Less for more specialized city or county district positions and more for state positions, Scarbrough said.

“You have to budget for everything,” she said, “and it has to be a large part of my budget.”

While the upside to signage is name recognition, the downside is that signs can be easily moved or taken, Scarbrough said.

And while some candidate supporters might be into lifting signs of opponents, it isn’t always thieves and pranksters removing signs.

“Unfortunately, when signs are a danger for drivers or highway workers, we have to move them,” said Troy Traffic Official Hunter Hanson.

Hanson said he’s tasked with driving the city each week to make sure all signs, including political ones, aren’t in right of ways or blocking a driver’s view.

“The biggest thing is to use common sense,” Hanson explained. “And remember that most big corners are property of the [Alabama] Highway Department.”

Hanson said don’t go onto property that doesn’t belong to you without permission and place signs away from driveways and back a safe distance from the road in front yards. Keep in mind that while some people driving trucks or SUVs might be able to see clearly, signs might still obstruct the view of smaller car drivers.

Hanson also asks that candidates be respectful of some areas, such as Bicentennial Park.

“One year, it got to where you couldn’t even tell it was a memorial park because of all the signs,” Hanson remembered.

Anyone with questions about their sign placement, or city code can contact Hanson at 566-0177.

“I try to work with people,” Hanson said. “They spend a lot of money on their signs, and I understand that. But, we have to follow the law and keep people safe.”