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Roadside campaign signs are blooming

Campaign signs are up for the Town's General Election on May 1 and here are the rules governing their placement, size, location, and removal.

This early warm spring has brought green buds to trees, pollen to the air, gorgeous daffodils, and political campaign signs to our parks and yards letting us all know that there will be a Town Election on May 1. Up for election is our Town Council and Mayor, all of whom currently serve a two year, at large term. All candidates run as independents, without any party affiliation, which allows Federal employees, including military, to serve. 

But getting back to the signs, a necessary evil in any electoral process. Even though I am an incumbent and again seeking election to Town Council, I admit to not being overly fond of political campaign signs as they make the Town look messy and obstruct the view of our normally beautiful parks, gardens and yards.  I'd much rather see your daffodils blooming than signs!

Luckily, signs are governed by the Town's Zoning Ordinance as well as Virginia State Code. Political signs are exempt from receiving a sign permit but must adhere to town standards (specifically Section 78-202.7 of the zoning ordinance), which limits size to a total of nine square feet, prohibits the illumination of signs, and requires signs to be installed in a location that does not cause any potential traffic sight distance problems.

As far as location goes, signs may be displayed on public property that the Town has set aside specifically: these Town-owned properties are where candidates for public office may put up campaign signs:  Runnymede Park, Town Hall Square, Spring Street Park, Trailside Park, Town Shop, Cuttermill Park, Haley M. Smith Park and the grass area to the north of Artspace at 750 Center Street.

Campaign signs are permitted to be displayed 60 days prior to the General Election, so signs can go up as of March 1.  Virginia Code allows signs to be posted at outside official polling places during the times the polls are open and ballots are being counted, but they are not permitted within 40 feet of any entrance of any polling place. (Fairfax County has a very helpful FAQ section on campaign signs at:  http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/dpz/faqs/signsfaq.htm)

Candidates also received a reminder from the Town concerning the correct location for campaign signs on town property.  Candidates may not place signs  "within flower beds, at the base of permanent signs and in the brick planter beds located along the sidewalks within the downtown, including the sidewalk beds adjacent to Elden Street next to Town Hall." 

Campaign signs are never permitted in the public right-of-way, such as along sidewalks or in median strip.  Signs are never permitted on any part of the W&OD Trail, which is governed by the Northern Virginia Regional Parks Authority.

So if you see campaign signs in public places and parks that aren't specifically listed above, please call the Town or the candidates directly to have them removed.  Please do not remove the signs yourself.

If you are a private homeowner or business and would like an approved political sign to display on your property, please contact the candidates individually to get one delivered - .

And best of all, campaign signs must be removed by all candidates within 15 days of the election.  In Herndon, candidates are typically more responsible and strive to get all of their signs down and back to their garages the day afterwards!

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Doug Shuster April 02, 2012 at 07:10 PM
These campaign blogs are getting a lot of attention, which is good. But a healthy dialogue has quickly devolved into name calling and vitriol. I give the candidates a huge amount of credit for putting their necks out on the line. I know it's not easy because I've stuck my own neck out there recently on the Metro Area issue and had a few people take their best whacks at it. We are and will remain neighbors in a fairly small town and we should have the decency to speak well to one another even when we disagree on the issues. I would hope that out of respect for the candidates, people will use their full names when commenting on these campaign blogs.
Leslie Perales Loges (Editor) April 03, 2012 at 05:08 AM
Thank you, Doug, for this comment. I was truly hoping that the great dialogue we saw early on in this discussion would continue, but just as you said, it "has quickly devolved into name calling and vitriol." I know a lot of other forum-type websites throughout the region are known for this type of discussion, but I would really like for things to remain neighborly here on Patch. There are ways for people to converse, without the rudeness, bitterness or condemnation. I've been told by multiple candidates now that if this is how the blogs are going to be, they will not participate.
William Campenni April 03, 2012 at 12:45 PM
Leslie, I believe that these candidates are being a little bit disingenuous with you. This thread started out with a proper discussion of the issues, and was itself originated by a candidate, Grace Wolf. It was that same candidate who made the verifiably wrong statement that a slate of candidates were "non-partisan", when there is a mountain of evidence, with videos posted here, that she and her slate are indeed running as "Democrats" with the full imprimatur and support of the Democrat Party. That is a first for the Town of Herndon, where truly non-partisan elections were the standard, and required by Town charter. One member of this candidate "slate", another first, is publicly boasting as to how he and his video co-stars, Wolf, Merkel, Olem, Boll, are "turning Herndon into an emerging stronghold for the Democrat Party". The same video ends with the following: "DEMOCRATS DON"T GIVE UP". That is the essence of the discussion herein. It is rather amusing, therefore, when caught in the act of making an election a partisan one, that these candidates, including Wolf who started the thread, now use the rudeness of one of their own supporters, the anonymous CriticalVoter, as their excuse for not participating. And the Patch itself, if it is to a news entity and not a political blog, has a duty to ask these candidates to explain themselves and their actions, and to discuss issues, not self-aggrandizing puff pieces more appropriate to the Post Style section.
Bob Bruhns April 03, 2012 at 01:53 PM
Despite its brawl-like qualities, this discussion has been interesting and informative. But it seems inappropriate that the candidates should be dragged down from their virtual podiums and beaten up by the crowd, even though some in the crowd have a valid point to make. This is especially true in this case, because Grace Wolf - whether you agree with her or not - is the one who has really put herself out the most, many times, to report the Council goings-on online. Yes, all of the people on that flyer and on that video are members of one major party. But the flyer itself did not push the party, nor did it even mention the party at all. It presented a group of candidates, it highlighted in very general terms their purpose and policy, it portrays them as team of candidates working on a certain group of issues, and it provided contact and website information for them. Agree or disagree with these candidates, that is really all I see in the flyer. Maybe the idea of a team is out of place, maybe the team leader is unelected and too high above the team, maybe not, this can be discussed. But the flyer is not really a smoking gun. The video, though not part of this election, is nonetheless interesting, and it will be very significant to some, if not many. It should indeed be discussed, but probably in a different discussion thread.
Bob Bruhns April 03, 2012 at 01:59 PM
What worked in the past was candidate interviews, with comments and remarks by readers kept separate. It is good and proper that people should be able to comment, and Patch has been an excellent place to do that. But although this blog arrangement allowed serious issues to be discussed, it also dragged the candidates down to the same level as anonymous pen-name posters, who can make outrageous and damaging claims, true or false, without consequence. And that has detracted from the value of the forum. Probably there should be no comments allowed in the candidate blogs themselves. They should be a place where a candidate can make his or her statements. Comments there, however valid, are too much like graffiti. Comments and discussions should happen elsewhere nearby, in another blog-like forum here on Patch. I will bet that the candidates (some, anyway) will get into those comment discussions, and slug it out like champions. But I can understand if they don't want their own blogs filled with so much graffiti that it is hard to find their comments in it at all.
Matt Genkinger April 03, 2012 at 02:02 PM
Agreed, Bob. Maybe Leslie will write an article on the video, or otherwise post it as a separate discussion?
William Campenni April 03, 2012 at 02:19 PM
Sorry Bob, but when a candidate makes a dishonest statement in this thread, namely, that her slate is non-partisan, all the surrounding evidence needs to be brought into the discussion to establish its validity. As the court would say, she opened this line of inquiry herself. If you allow candidates to make ". . . his or her statements" without allowing rebutting comments to their often false or misleading claims, then it becomes a campaign advertisement. Let them pay for that themselves, elsewhere. Actions have consequences. Nobody forced these candidates to appear in a highly politicized and viciously partisan video. None of them have made any disclaimers that they were not in agreement with the essence of that video, as spoken by one of the slate candidates, that they will "turn Herndon into an emerging stronghold for the Democrat Party". This is an election. If the candidates can't be held accountable for their positions, or are unable or unwilling to defend their views, they ought to consider another line of work.
William Campenni April 03, 2012 at 02:50 PM
Good idea Matt, and if the Patch is truly a news entity, and not a recipe exchange blog, it needs to start a discussion on the pending arrival of the Virginia New Majority and its plan to set up phone banks and canvass thousands of homes for "its" candidates. Who are "its" candidates? Why is the VNM waiting to start until after the April 15 due date for campaign finance reporting, thereby hiding its role in the Herndon elections? Where are the candidates' statements renouncing the support of this self-admitted race- and class-exploiting arm of the SEIU? And that means not just saying you have not received any direct support from the VNM, but that you don't want them campaigning for you, or canvassing for you, or setting up phone banks in Alexandria for you, or providing any other indirect support. Or should we ignore that, and talk about the candidates favorite cookie recipes?
Bob Bruhns April 03, 2012 at 03:23 PM
Bill, you are great, but I disagree. The candidates got hundreds of signatures in order to appear on the ballot for these offices. I think that gives them standing to be presented in an op-ed form. These are the ones who offered themselves, and who the people have chosen to run. Citizens should have a place to comment here as well. But we have 24,000-some citizens, and maybe a dozen candidates. The candidates will be buried in comments if they do not have an elevated platform of some sort. If a candidate uses that platform to talk about cookie recipes, well then the voters can decide if that's what they want from their representatives. Competing candidates might use the platform to better advantage. But if they all stay away... hmmm. Let's see, maybe we can see them mix it up one afternoon at the Chamber of Commerce's Candidate Meeting. As for VNM, I think VNM represents a challenge, if not a threat, to the political structure we saw on the video. VNM made them out to be anti-immigration thugs back in the Street Solicitation hearings, and showed up singing fractured Christmas carols at their doors. That was a bizarre political power struggle from a bizarre group. I think they are more connected with the old 'Alliance' than anything else, and Herndon will be better off when they find something else to do.
Leslie Perales Loges (Editor) April 03, 2012 at 03:51 PM
Looking into it, Matt.
Leslie Perales Loges (Editor) April 03, 2012 at 03:57 PM
I'm looking into it, Bill.
William Campenni April 03, 2012 at 04:38 PM
Bob: I really liked the intro - "You are great"
Valerie M April 03, 2012 at 06:14 PM
Bob, I have always enjoyed reading your posts here on the Patch, but you are wrong. No one is attacking any of the candidates. People are responding to a statement that the author of this blog posted. Thank you, Mr. Campenni, for posting those videos. They are real eye openers for those of us who live here. Bob, the so-called "slate" candidates are not addressing the issues that are important to Herndon. As Mr. Campenni pointed out their blogs are, indeed, happy puff pieces that clearly do not address the issues or talk about viable solutions to the issues facing the Town. They seem have lots of ideas, but no solutions.
Bob Bruhns April 03, 2012 at 07:49 PM
Yeah, well, you know. One of the members of the group did say something on the video about making Herndon a Democratic stronghold. The combination of the flyer and the video is definitely a subject for discussion, and something for voters to consider.
Doug Shuster April 03, 2012 at 08:18 PM
Now that people have stopped calling each other trolls, let me weigh in. I also take issue with the team approach. I can understand the need for pooling resources during a campaign, but unfortunately it seems to carry over into the councilmembers' work on the council. Olem, Wolf, and Merkel worked and voted as a block on most of the issues, effectively shutting out any opposing views. You might ask how a block of three can make a majority on a council of seven. The reason is that Bill Tirrell effectively became part of their block, giving them a majority and the ability to rubberstamp things like the Metro Area Plan. The manner in which these three councilmembers operate is more like a clique than a team, and the worrisome thing about a clique is that they don't listen to outsiders, including their constituents who may have different ideas on the issues.
Leslie Perales Loges (Editor) April 03, 2012 at 09:11 PM
Out of curiosity, would anyone who has a copy of the flier being spoken about be able to take photos of it to send to me? I don't live in Herndon (I live in Reston, less than a mile from the town limits) so I didn't get one. I'm doing some research and would like to see it. Email me at leslie@patch.com!
Tom Kellner April 03, 2012 at 09:32 PM
Since the essence of this blog is signs, I would love to know the stand of the political canidates about signage for commercial property. As a former owner of a retail service business, I can tell you that proper signage, or the lack of it, can either make or break a business. Now that at least some of the canidates see the importance of getting their name out there, will they be willing to allow our commercial neighbors enough signs to survive? Think this isn't a problem; pretend you are going through downtown for the first time and tell me what businesses you would patronize after looking at the inadequate little signage that is allowed.
Bill Tirrell April 04, 2012 at 02:33 AM
Doug, What was the phrase – “There he goes again.” I am definitely not part of that block, or any block or group. There are times when our votes may be congruent, if for different reasons. In the case of the Metro plan, it was to get the process moving, but not to rush rashly into the following more critical steps like zoning, without further study and analysis. Please review the meetings about the Comprehensive Plan. I took great care in dealing with the Plan amendment to ensure it was as ‘correct’ as I could make it. I made the second motion that we review our work to ensure we would not pass a Zoning Ordinance Amendment (this the ‘binding’ change) predicated on a ‘bad’ foundation. Nice try to belittle my effort and try to ‘tie’ me to some block, group, or slate, Doug, but it doesn’t wash.
Dave Webster April 04, 2012 at 11:14 AM
Tom, I have no position on the permitted size of commercial signs other than I would be willing to consider any suggestions the business community has. I also would be willing to look at our parking space requirements for businesses to see if those need to be revamped.
Jane April 04, 2012 at 11:38 AM
Cookie recipes and cliques? Sounds sexist to me.
Valerie M April 04, 2012 at 12:00 PM
Jane - The "slate" candidates write happy , little blogs that do nothing to address the issues facing the Town. This is Grace Wolf's blog. I am amazed that she has not responded to the two video links. If she is making a statement that this is a nonpartisan election then she should want to respond here. As I said in a post on Ms. Merkel's blog, the silence is deafening, and, I might add, very telling.
Doug Shuster April 04, 2012 at 03:51 PM
Councilmember Tirrell, I didn't mean to belittle your efforts, they were a good second best and I appreciate your efforts to put the brakes on and take a second look at some of the analysis. But you carried the deciding vote on whether we reject this plan and develop a plan that makes sense. It is indeed a bad foundation and it is doubtful that the Town staff and their consultants will find anything wrong with the previous analysis if they don't want to. As the analysis to date shows, these studies are easily manipulated to give the client their desired results - objectivity is elusive. For example, the latest Metro Area Plan simply changed the assumptions from the previous plan to come up with the density they wanted. This is unacceptable and they should have been taken to task then and there.
Doug Shuster April 04, 2012 at 03:51 PM
Jane, As far as I know, cliques are not gender specific (clique - a small group of people with shared interests, who spend time together and exclude others). And I think that men and women alike enjoy a good cookie recipe (although that was not my comment).
Leslie Perales Loges (Editor) April 04, 2012 at 04:38 PM
I'm working on a separate article. I have responses from both Grace and Lisa.
Leslie Perales Loges (Editor) April 04, 2012 at 04:41 PM
None of the candidates have written about cookies or recipes on Patch. However, Patch blogs are open to anyone in the community—including stay at home moms looking to share their knowledge, experiences around town and, yes, their recipes, with other local moms. Our bloggers include retired teachers, Realtors, moms, sports trainers, Girl Scout groups and more.
Valerie M April 04, 2012 at 05:17 PM
Leslie, I commend you on writing an article with responses from the two councilwomen, but once again they fail to speak for themselves, and refuse to engage with the voters in Herndon directly by dialoging with us on this and other Patch Blogs.
Manny April 04, 2012 at 06:26 PM
Valerie, maybe they are asking Cesar how best to respond.
Bob Bruhns April 04, 2012 at 08:59 PM
I will scan it when I get home and send it to you, Leslie.
Valerie M April 05, 2012 at 12:19 PM
Manny, that would be very sad. These ladies are loosing credibility daily due to their continued silence, and continued refusal to dialog with their constituents in a public forum.
Ann H Csonka May 03, 2012 at 05:42 AM
Merkel 5:20 Mar26 “I agree, spring flowers are prettier… Kirby 12:23 Mar26 Yes…flowers are nicer to look at than political signs One reason for signs: to remind citizens about an election. Sadly, it doesn’t increase turnout; too many simply do not “get it” that local government is important in their daily lives. Thankfully, in the town, you will NOT find signs in medians, or in other roadsides. When they are put there, they are removed by the Town staff (another unnoticed small service). As Grace said: “…if you see campaign signs in public places and parks that aren't specifically listed above, please call the Town or the candidates…to have them removed.” One of the best traditions has been that candidates (often except for Hutchinson) remove their signs while waiting for returns, though the Code stipulates to remove within 15 days after election. SIGN STORY: ”Flowers are nicer”. That’s why we made John De Noyer’s signs as in the photo above. After his first 2 terms the slashing, stealing or spray-painting of his signs did not occur as it had earlier, so we used the same heavy-duty signs for 6 or 7 more terms. AND, more candidates started keeping signs for another run instead trashing them. We got a few more printed in the mid-1990’s because people WANTED tulip-signs to go with their real flowers and we always ran out. Only mentioning that because there are more decorative options. BUT once you have a sign design, it’s good to keep it.

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