Campaign posters plastered on utility poles are as much a part of Philadelphia as cheese-steaks and pretzels, says City Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell, pushing her bill to legalize political signs on poles.
But as the primary season heats up, her colleagues on Council's Licenses and Inspections Committee basically gutted her bill yesterday, preserving the poster-on-poles ban in eight of 10 Council districts.
The committee also accepted amendments from the Street administration that would require a candidate to pay 35 cents per sign and deposit $1 per sign as a guarantee that each sign meets size requirements and carries a special city stamp.
The amendments make clear that while political signs are permissible in designated areas of the city, commercial signs, stickers and banners remain illegal.
As the bill now stands, only Blackwell's West Philadelphia district and Carol Ann Campbell's district, which stretches from West Philadelphia to Roxborough, would allow the political signage on streetlight and other utility poles. Blackwell, who supported the original poster ban in December 2004, said she did so as a favor to the bill's sponsor, Rick Mariano, now serving time in federal prison on corruption charges.
"We were trying to give him some respect," Blackwell said. "He felt he needed something to send a message to the public that he cared, but we didn't believe in it then."
City Councilman Frank DiCicco said that driving into the city during an election season, motorists confront a blur of signs on poles and the rights of way. "It's trash, in my opinion," he said.
Otis Hagler, L&I's director of legislative affairs, testified that the department does not support carving out areas of the city where the sign prohibition would be maintained, because enforcement becomes too difficult.
And Lance Haver, the administration's director of consumer affairs, testified in favor of Blackwell's bill. "I cannot understand why the signs of a vibrant democracy are not considered a public treasure but instead a public nuisance," he said.
After the committee vote, Blackwell said she was not sure whether her bill, dramatically amended as it is, would gain approval in the full Council.