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.