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Officials ask for sign ordinance compliance

October 26, 2000

East Lansing officials are asking political candidates and homeowners to abide by a sign ordinance that limits where signs can be placed and how many are allowed in one yard.

Lawn signs are a popular way for candidates to display their name and face to persuade voters. East Lansing Mayor Mark Meadows said the signs are not necessary for incumbents, but a necessity for newcomers.

“Some candidates don’t need signs since their names and faces are known around the community,” Meadows said. “Making the signs is expensive.”

However, lawn signs sometimes end up in public areas - places they are not supposed to be, said Howard Asch, the city’s director of code enforcement and neighborhood conservation.

Asch said most candidates follow the ordinance and removing signs is not a major problem.

“We do remove signs that are misplaced on street medians and in parks,” Asch said. “Some may just be misplaced by people moving them themselves, not necessarily the candidates moving them.”

When signs are placed by candidates, they must follow the ordinance created by the city. It states all signs must be put up within 30 days of the election and removed seven days after the race is finished.

Also, no single location may have more than three signs, and they can’t exceed 3 feet 6 inches in height.

When candidates request to place signs in a resident’s lawn, Asch said, they should ask whether the landlord will mind.

East Lansing City Manager Ted Staton said the ordinance is usually enforced only when a complaint is made.

“We have limited resources with our (Parking and Code Enforcement Department), which actually regulates the misuse of the signs,” Staton said. “We trust the candidates to abide by the sign ordinance.”

Laura Thiel, a landscape architecture junior, said her landlord does not allow signs to be on the property because it is part of the historic district. She also said the city has removed signs from her lawn.

“Last time we had signs on our property, he stopped by and told us to take them down,” Thiel said. “I think it is helpful for the candidates to get their names out, and people have to expect the lawn clutter during election time.”

The city will have to deal with the cluttering of signs as they are only temporary and people have learned to expect it come election time, said state Sen. Dianne Byrum, D-Onondaga. Byrum is running for the 8th Congressional District seat.

“A lot of work goes into delivering the yard signs, from calling residents, having volunteers deliver them and writing thank you notes to those who participated,” Byrum said. “The signs really help with momentum, and it is such a great way for people to feel involved.”

Bill Hollister, Republican candidate for the state House in the 70th District, said yard signs are important, but not as important as shaking hands with the people.

“Yard signs on an influential person’s property are more important than on a vacant lot,” Hollister said. “Having signs on Democratic lawns indicates ability to build consensus.”

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