AS IF WE didn't have enough litter on the street, the city also has too much rubbish nailed to poles. We're talking about "bandit signs": small signs plastered on streetlights and utility poles all over Philadelphia advertising businesses with classy slogans like "Top Dollar Paid for Junk Vehicles" and "We Buy Houses." They're ugly and a bane for neighborhood groups trying to improve the city's quality of life, not to mention its property values. And, believe it or not, given their omnipresence, the signs are also against the law.
A bill introduced by Councilman Curtis Jones Jr. last week would legalize signs on streetlights and utility poles, as long as advertisers pay the city $1 per sign and follow minimal guidelines, like not using glue or nails to hang them up.
Jones wants to raise money for our cash-strapped city. He also believes that his bill will give the city more time to crack down on advertisers that don't register their illegal signs - and hit them with big fines.
The problem, he says, is that the law on the books just isn't being strictly enforced.
We doubt that his bill would help. Christopher Sawyer, founder of the anti-blight Bandit Project, estimates that there are 20,000 illegal signs throughout Philadelphia at any given time. Yet, in 2010, the city wrote only eight - yes, eight - tickets for signs, despite the fact that each violation comes with a $75 fine.
If Sawyer is right, that means the city is leaving up to $1.5 million in fines on the table. So if our government lacks the resources to collect that money, how exactly will it be able to enforce Jones' proposed law?
It won't. Allow us to suggest a better idea instead: Hire people who get a commission for every $75 fine they collect on bandit signs. The city should also enlist more volunteers who are eager to tear down the ugly signs. We bet plenty are ready to make Philadelphia more beautiful.