Little signs treated as big problem

You generally find them hanging around busy street corners or in other areas that get lots of traffic. Their intent is to attract attention and apparently some community officials feel that they pose a serious threat.

They usually represent a small, visual shout with messages like:

“We hang Christmas lights.”

“Aeration and rototilling.”

“Earn money working from home!”

Perhaps the most insidious of all state:

“Lost kitten” or “Enrichment night tonight.”

The evil people who post these signs are perpetrating a criminal act and apparently some localities take it so seriously that they categorize it as a Class B Misdemeanor. That puts in on the level of crimes like shoplifting or vandalism. It is punishable by a fine of up to six months in jail or $1,000.

I have a family member who recently ran afoul of this law. He works in the construction industry and during these difficult economic times it has been a struggle to provide for his family. Lacking funds to do any major marketing, he thought he would try to generate some business by posting small signs on some street corners.

In the process of putting up the signs, he was spotted by a policeman who informed him his actions were a violation and told him to take the signs back down. In retracing his steps and removing the signs, he missed one. As a result, he was cited and called into court.

When he appeared, the prosecutor asked that he be put in jail for 10 days and given a substantial fine for his belligerent attitude toward the police officer. If you knew this person, you would understand the ridiculous of such a charge. He is totally non-confrontational. Gandhi was a violent tyrant by comparison.

I can only speculate that the policemen must have confused him with someone else.

Fortunately after hearing both sides, the judge reduced the crime to a Class C misdemeanor and levied a small fine.

I understand that city officials don’t want every utility pole or corner fence covered with signs for garage sales that never get taken down. But to seek jail time or a hefty fine for something that causes little public harm seems over the top. People who talk on cell phones or who text while driving create a more serious societal hazard.

Perhaps some local communities see enforcement of this ordinance as primarily a revenue source. In that case, maybe they need to crack down on young children who sell lemonade on the roadside without a business license.

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