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Campaign Lawn Signs Make Belmont Look Trashy

Although campaign lawn signs are protected free speech, they make Belmont look trashy.

When I moved to Arlington in 80s and then Belmont in the 90s, campaign lawn signs were a rare sight. Some neighbors even told me there were by-laws against them. It turns out that was just a hope on the part of many of us.

It is unfortunate that signage makes a difference. Candidates who can get donors to cough up a few hundred dollars can paint their colors on the busier streets where we have to see them every day. Of course whose lawn – or other location –is hosting a campaign sign is also part of the message. Like any endorsement, this is both a positive and negative.

It would serve the electorate far better if candidates had to convince us to vote for them on substance and merit, not just "viz." But that follows society's collective deficit of attention to anything that takes longer than a commercial or tweet.

Lawn sign use was escalated in Belmont by Bill Monahan's final campaign in 2002. Of course, Paul Solomon's campaign had to match it, so we were off on an arms race. As much as I dislike them, I planted dozens on lawns then, and many more since. It's something we are now stuck with. (To be honest, I did have fun while doing that.)

Last weekend I was especially disappointed to see a large sign for Selectman candidate Andy Rojas on the construction fence at the former Murray Sandler site at the intersection of Concord Avenue and Bright Road. My immediate though was, is this a payback for approvals in front of the planning board? Does this feel wrong to anyone else? It is probably just crassness on the part of the developer.

I visited a brother near Philadelphia last year, before an election. Candidates go over the top there, putting their signs on public property, like deltas and medians of busy roads. It was garish, like a NASCAR race track. Thankfully, occasional "misplacement" of signs at inappropriate places, like at the train underpass, are quickly remedied in Belmont.

I've kind of gotten use to signs over the past decade, and they often fade from consciousness, like bumper stickers. But I do wish candidates would at least limit the time span to just a couple weeks. Of course Obama and Ron Paul signs have been up for a couple months, with many more to go.

Yes, this is free speech. But then so is this blog, so I can say they're trashy.

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Amanda Green March 11, 2012 at 09:51 PM
On the contrary, John, I think that lawn signs indicate a heartening level of civic engagement. It's a visual demonstration of care for our town. Hopefully signs may encourage voters to do some research about the candidates and get involved.
Matt Sullivan March 11, 2012 at 09:54 PM
John, The pic. with all the signs looks trashy not the others. Not everyone likes them but it's part of running for office as you know.
John Bowe March 12, 2012 at 01:42 AM
I think signs' impact is gone after a week or two. After that, they're just advertising clutter, with the charm of a Budweiser or TD Bank ad on the T. Right now there are Obama and Brown signs along School St; we have 7 more months of those. I'd love it if local candidates would keep it to 2-3 weeks before the election. Amanda, some are indeed engaged, but many are just "targeted" because of their house's location (Waverley, School, Cross, etc.); many would not host the signs unless pressed by the campaigns. But I hope it does get people to make a serious, non-superficial effort in their research.
Ellen Schreiber March 12, 2012 at 02:32 AM
John - I agree with Amanda and Matt. Personally, I love the lawn signs, particularly for local elections. When lawn signs begin to pop up, it indicates the beginning of election season - just like crocuses and daffodils announce the coming of spring. We're all busy, but the lawn signs remind us that it's time to get informed because we have a decision to make. I see them as an expression of civic pride and love of community, an important part of the public dialog, and it never fails to make me reflect on my own choices when I see them.
Anne Mahon March 19, 2012 at 09:10 PM
The signs in my yard look AWESOME! Not only that, people see them and ask me how they get the same on theirs. Fortunately, I have a stash! ;-)

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