sign o' the times
Ken Hoffman singles out the most overrated political token this election season
My neighborhood looks like a used car lot inside a flea market inside a garage sale on Harwin Drive.
There are political signs on front lawns everywhere. The place looks like the front window of Best Buy on Black Friday. I’ve seen campaigns for high school prom queen run with more dignity.
“Sign, sign, everywhere a sign/ Blockin’ out the scenery/ Breakin’ my mind.” (That's from Five Man Electrical Band.)
Here’s the real deal (tip of the hat to Jake from State Farm): Have you ever voted for a candidate — or, changed your mind and voted for a different candidate — based on a sign in somebody’s front lawn?
How about when you see a candidate’s signs in front of an empty lot or an abandoned store that’s out of business? What does that say about the candidate?
Or in the public right-of-way? Or a public park? Or telephone poll. Or your neighbors cover their lawn with 10 or 20 signs for the same candidate?
I asked former Harris County Judge Ed Emmett (I say future, too, but he swears no), do political yard signs accomplish anything? He said, “Not in highly publicized offices, people have pretty much made up their minds. But signs may help in down ballot races. Maybe people want to see who their neighbors are voting for.”
Political yard signs are like negative TV ads. Everybody dislikes them, but some swear that they work.
Texas voters will not be able to vote straight party ticket this election — it’s the new law. However, judging from yard signs, it looks like voters are sticking to their chosen party.
The exception that proves the rule is Sarah Davis, the Republican incumbent in Texas House District 134. Occasionally you’ll see a lawn dotted with signs for Democrats — and Sarah Davis. She is a moderate Republican, often at odds with Texas Gov. Greg Abbott. In fact, two years ago, Abbott financed a conservative candidate to run against Davis in the Republican primary. Davis won the primary and the general election in what has become a reliably blue area of Houston.
The Texas Wildlife Department should place Davis on its endangered species list.
How about when a candidate rings your doorbell, gives you the sales pitch, and asks if you’ll put his/her sign in your yard. No! I fall back on, “I’m a hard-hitting journalist, I’m not allowed to have signs in my yard.”
It doesn’t matter if you live in a deed-restricted neighborhood or your city or HOA has a law banning signs in front yards. Political signs are allowed, the Supreme Court says so. Towns and neighborhood can restrict the size of political signs, and you may not be allowed to put a sign on your roof or have it shoot fireworks, but as a rule, you can put political signs in your front yard. And there ain’t nothing nobody can do about it.
There are laws that say candidates must remove their signs after Election Day, but good luck getting a sore loser to collect his/her signs, which have overnight become litter.
Does a candidate really need to put signs on residents’ front lawns? Reg “Third Degree” Burns ran for West University Place city council several years ago. I was his campaign manager. Burns did not place one sign on a front lawn, not even his own. There were nine candidates for four spots on council. Let the record show that Burns did not finish last. (He finished next to last.)
I saw on my neighborhood bulletin board that someone is stealing signs for certain candidates. That’s not a smart idea since so many residents have those Ring doorbells that video intruders and sign-stealers.
Also, some people have taken extreme steps to avoid sign larceny. They’re booby-trapping political signs by sticking mouse traps and razor blades on the backs of signs.
The craziness will be over in three weeks — just in time to start the 2022 election cycle. And, of course, the 2024 presidential race is right around the corner.
Pet of the Week
Name: Sally, as in Sally, my dog; Oscar-winner Sally Field (“you like me, right now, you like me”); astronaut Sally Ride; and Archie Bunker’s “little goil,” Sally Struthers.
Birthdate: October 29, 2019. I’m still a puppy, but the clock is ticking.
Ethnicity: I am a special needs dog. One of my back legs had to be amputated because of an injury. Have I let that stop me or bring me down or anything? Hell no! I move with lots of grace. I’m a retriever mix and complete goofball with a big time sense of humor. I’m a real cuddler, too. If you have a big heart, this can be the start of a beautiful relationship. Like all the pooches up for adoption, I will be spayed, checked out by a qualified vet and sent to the groomer for my glamour shot.
Come and get me: If you want to make a love connection, email firstname.lastname@example.org. Wait, I almost forgot the best part, West Houston Suburu is picking up the fee for all adoptions of special needs pets this month.