What About Politicians’ Signs? Those Must be Legal, Because I See Them Everywhere!

This is a common excuse that is understandable.  It's commonly understood that a candidate would generally not do something illegal, since that would jeapordize their chances of being elected.  So, if campaign bandit signs are everywhere in the public realm, then all bandit signs must be legal.

Political bandit signs must be mounted on stakes and affixed to the ground and only located in public city-owned medians nearing the time of election.  No later than 30 days (on average) after an election, they must all be removed from City-owned property before L&I/Streets will begin to respond to complaints.   This does not apply to privately-owned property where the campaign previously obtained permission from the private property owner(s) to place signs.

But in case you had any doubts, in most cases L&I says no, they are not legal.

If you’re really adventurous, you can look for loopholes in ¶10-1202.

Just about every bandit sign you see in the public realm for a political campaign has a problem with it if it bumps against the criteria in Philadelphia City Code, Title 10. Basically, if the sign is mounted on public property fixtures, like light poles, utility poles, parking meters, trees (private or public), they are not permissible.  But for private property, the law says if permission was obtained from the property owner first, then the sign stays.  Period.  End of discussion.

Since permission is needed first, that also means most coroplast signs hanging on abandoned property and vacant lots are most also likely to be illegal.  It's not very likely that the political candidate obtained express permission first, so those signs are also blight and must be removed.  Unless, of course, the candidate can demonstrate that permission was obtained, which rest-assured never happens in Philadelphia.

If it’s up in the windows of a home, the side of a building or a privately owned fence (preferably on occupied property), then it is legal.  Everywhere else, they're not legal.

In case you’re wondering if a politician has ever ran afoul of this rule, there actually is such a case. Kenyatta Johnson, soon to be 2nd District City Councilman in the 2007-2008 election cycle ordered and distributed 5,000 bandit signs. This attracted the attention of City Hall, and L&I was dispatched to enforce the rules in ¶10-1200 on Mr. Johnson.

Because Kenyatta Johnson felt that prohibiting his bandit signs in the public right of way constituted infringement on the right to “free and fair elections,” he sued the City of Philadelphia in the US District Court in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

He lost.

See a bandit sign that bugs you?  Report it!