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How Long Will Those Campaign Yard Signs Be Around in Louisville?

The 2014 election season has come and gone, but the thousands of campaign signs may stick around for months.

At least that's the case in parts of Louisville.

Louisville Metro has no ordinance requiring candidates to remove the signs following Election Day.

Campaign signs posted on private property are protected by the First Amendment, therefore cannot be regulated when on private property, according to the Jefferson County Attorney’s Office.

That wasn't always the case. Before city-county merger, the old City of Louisville had an ordinance on the removing the signs—but there has been no such law since, said a spokesman for the county attorney's office.

What are the prospects of a new ordinance, then?

“A campaign sign is seen as a freedom of speech, I doubt Metro Council would want to pass a law that says you can’t keep a campaign sign on private property,” said Tony Hyatt, spokesman for Metro Council Democratic Caucus.

Now, if campaign signs become tattered and a “trash issue,” the property owner could be subject to penalties, said Harold Adams, spokesman for the Metro Public Works.

“It’s difficult for me to imagine the typical political yard sign creating that problem, but I won’t say that’s not possible,” he added.

Signs posted on the public right of way, however, are a different matter, in fact, subject to removal by Public Works, Adams said.  This is the case at any time, before or after an election.

He said employees don’t “drive around looking” for these illegally posted signs, but when a concerned citizen calls in, they will remove the signage.

“It’s not anything targeted at political signs, it’s that anything that might tend to be an obstruction to the right of way, we remove those things,” he said.

While Metro Louisville doesn't have a rules on yard signs, some suburban Jefferson County cities do.

Anchorage has perhaps Jefferson County's  strictest law pertaining to the removal of campaign yard signs.  City ordinance mandates all campaign signs must be removed within five days following an election. In Jeffersontown, candidates have seven days after an election to remove the signs, per city law.

Other lager suburban cities, including St. Matthews, Shively, Audubon Park, Lyndon, Middletown, follow Louisville Metro protocol when it comes to signs.

Some candidates take a proactive approach to clearing the city of signs.  Bill Hollander, recently elected to the Metro Council District 9 seat, said he rented a truck the day after Election Day to collect his signage.

“I wanted to get them up as quickly as we could, there is really nothing worse than a campaign yard sign after the campaign is over,” he said.

Hollander said he put hundreds of his signs in storage.

Lauren Adams Ogden, who unsuccessfully ran for District Court 1 Family Court Judge, turned to social media following the election to encourage supporters to recycle smaller yard signs.

Post by Ogden For Judge.

“Most of our supporters are helping us with that,” she said.  “Hopefully they don’t all end up in the landfill.”

For larger signs, she said, some people are keeping them in case she decides to run again—which she did not say if she would—and others find non-political functions for the sign components, like using sign poles for camping.

Ogden said she bought about 825 signs since she began campaigning for the primary.

A spokesman for Capitol Promotions, a Pennsylvania-based company that claims to be the leading provider of political signs to the Louisville area, couldn’t say just how many signs are distributed throughout Jefferson County, but he said there were a lot.

“Thousands upon thousands,” he said.

Jacob Ryan is the managing editor of the Kentucky Center for Investigative reporting. He's an award-winning investigative reporter who joined LPM in 2014. Email Jacob at jryan@lpm.org.

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