Lately there has been a bit of buzz out there regarding lawn signs. Who has them? Where are they being placed? Are they on city property? And most important: Are they important? So, here are my thoughts…

Lawn Signs - there's a method to the madness

Lawn Signs – there’s a method to the madness

Yes, it’s that time of year. As sure as the leaves begin to turn and the days become shorter, like mushrooms that pop-up without warning, so do political lawn signs.

I’m no expert. However, running for office for the third time and managing 300+ lawn sign locations has taught me a thing or two.

Quality of Signs

To begin, the quality of the sign is reflection upon the candidate. Not all signs are made the same. If your signs are unsteady and flapping in the breeze, then what does that say about the candidate?

For any budding candidates out there, here are my recommendations: 

  1. Make your lawn sign clear and concise: One simple strong message, and if possible, one clear color. Multiple colors distract from your message.
  2. Union Bug: Ideally your sign will have the seal of approval (union made). You can tell by looking at the right hand corner of the sign, which should include a small, so-called “union bug” (see photo below). This is not an endorsement by, or for, unions – it’s an indication that the signs were made with a high degree of quality. In other words, a stiff wind won’t make them fly away when properly placed. Also, they are made in the USA.
    The "union bug" shown above is an indication that the sign is quality made.

    The “union bug” shown above is an indication that the sign is quality made.

  3. Call Ben Kaplan: To make it all much more simple, consult with sign czar (and former Ward 4 City Councilor) Ben Kaplan who will help you design and order signs that will help you achieve points 1 and 2.

How about the old adage: “Lawn signs don’t vote?”

Technically the old saying is true. A lawn sign cannot pull a lever, fill-in a little bubble, or punch a hole (chad-free or otherwise).

However, what I have found is this: Whether lawn signs are meaningful (or meaningless) depends entirely on how you acquire them.

This is how my campaign acquires lawn sign locations:

1. Pounding the pavement: For our campaign, a lawn sign is earned by a knock on the door, a good conversation on the issues and a personal ask to host our lawn sign. This is the best way to do it and accounts for 90+ percent of our signs out there. Last Sunday morning (9/22) our crew placed 200+ signs out there. That was the result of nearly two months of pounding the pavement and earning (and/or confirming) the support of Ward 6 constituents. 

2. Following-up with longtime supporters: However, often people may not be home when I knock on their door or ring the doorbell. In a handful of those cases, with those who have been adamant supporters in the past, a quick Facebook message or email will suffice to confirm their continued support and lawn sign location. 

We encourage our supporters to be creative with their lawn signs. 'Tis the season!

We encourage our supporters to be creative with their lawn signs. ‘Tis the season!

3. Unsolicited requests: Finally, once our signs went out last Sunday, we received a number of calls, emails and Facebook messages requesting a sign. We, of course, do our best to oblige in a timely fashion.

Where NOT to place signs

Outgoing School Committee Member Terry Kinnas has once again raised his deep concern of lawn signs being placed on city property. However, to truly decipher whether significant numbers of signs are on private or city property, you’d be wasting valuable time of city personnel and, therefore, wasting taxpayer dollars. Instead, we use the common sense rules: For streets with sidewalks, the signs should be placed on the inside of the sidewalk (away from the road, and on the side of the private property of your sign host). Also, signs should not be placed on any parkway medians (city-owned property), in a city park, etc. – again – common sense.

Finally, it’s not a good idea to place your sign on a property with visible code violations. Again, this may seem like common sense. However, we are occasionally approached by a well-meaning supporter who has a “great location” for a sign, but after further review, it’s not really all that great. Yes, it’s visible to many passersby, but so are the multiple unregistered vehicles, dilapidated front porch and more. If it’s a blight to the neighborhood, you won’t see my sign there. My job is to support those who are investing in their neighborhoods and building them up, not to try to score cheap political points on properties that are dragging it down. 

The properties that host your sign are a reflection upon what you represent as a candidate.

So, what about those properties that have signs of opposing candidates? 

This has always been an interesting phenomenon. Again, for our campaign, we acquire lawn sign locations in the way I described above (personal approval during door-to-door discussions). Sometimes after that takes place an opposing lawn sign will also appear. I cannot explain how or why that takes place, I can only speak for how we do it. In those cases, here’s what I have found: Often, that property is on the lawn sign list of another politician who is supporting the current candidate (publicly or behind the scenes). After the sign goes up (and there are two on a lawn), the property owner wishes not to offend anyone and keeps them both. Of course, the other choice (in an effort not to offend) is to have no lawn sign. 

I’ve read some suggestions that there are sometimes spousal differences that generate the double lawn sign property. However, in my experience this is extremely rare, and instead, it’s often the scenario I’ve described above. 

Okay, that’s all I’ve got….gotta go knock on some more doors and talk about more important issues!

2 Responses to What’s in a Sign?

  • Tom Sakshaug says:

    Hey John…FYI Ben Kaplan has retired or is about to retire. There’s a new guy taking it over. If I find Ben’s email I’ll forward it.
    Regarding lawn sign placement, my dilemma is this: my actual property starts about 10 feet in from the edge of the street, and we have no sidewalk. Does that road easement count as city property? Putting signs 10 feet in from the road pretty much makes them invisible to drivers. Like most people, we maintain the easement as if it were our own.

  • john says:

    Hey Doc Tom,
    I would still send people to Ben and I’m sure he’ll point you in the right direction. Again, with the sign placements, common sense should carry the day. We’ve never taken out tape measure out to place our signs.

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