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Law and Order, Brookhaven Style

Will Brookhaven political Candidates choose to follow the sign rules or pull a Vernon Jones exception.

With all of the talk of police in our community you would think that the candidates running for office would take the law very seriously.

So while some might consider what I am about to discuss rather trivial I do not belive it is. There has been a lot of discussion about code enforcement and including police in aspects where developers, businesses or individuals have found ways to work around the code enforcement system.

The most commonly mention example in discussions of such is that if you want to cut down a tree without a permit, just wait until 5pm when the code officers punch out and even if someone finds out later, it might just be a small fine. I have not done research into these allegations but for a county of 700,000 I am well aware there are plenty who view these tactics as a way to do business.

One thing that has been common all around Metro Atlanta is where municipalities enforce sign ordinances companies would actually put the signs out on Friday evening, and pick them up before Monday morning, avoiding that window when code enforcement could issue citations.

So this brings me back to Brookhaven and Dekalb County sign ordinances and the election. Before you read the following, ask yourself, do you really want to elect politicians who ignore or skirt the law, or rely on an executive exception created by the administrative head of DeKalb County, Vernon Jones.

DeKalb county might be enforcing only the Vernon Jones Exception, which as I have been told Vernon put in place without the Board of Commissioners approval, which says we can ignore the sign ordinance of DeKalb County during the election, but is that what we really want for the future of Brookhaven, to elect politicians who are so willfully ignoring the will of the people of DeKalb County and the rules they set up to govern signs.

In the defense of many candidates putting up signs, they are stuck with the problem that if the financial powerhouse leaders in the race are going to break the rules, and the public is not aware, then their signs go UN-noticed compared to the more visible ones, breaking the rules.

But it is time to pull the signs back to where they legally should be.

I have not done a full research, nor hired an attorney with respect to the sign ordinance but I think the solution is much easier than that:

Article XIII - Miscellaneous Provisions and Offenses.

Section 702 – Placement of political posters, signs and advertisements – Prohibited.

It shall be unlawful for any person witin the territorial limits of DeKalb County to place political posters, signs and advertisements:

(a) Within the right –of-way of any public streets located within such county:

(b) On any public property or building; and

(c) On any private property unless the owner thereof has given written permission to place such political campaign posters, signs and advertisements on such property.

This is the provision that Vernon Jones sought to undermine with his exective order that as far as I am aware is still on the books and being enforced as such under the direction of the Executive Head of DeKalb County, Burell Ellis.

But it is even simpler than this. We are Brookhaven, we should not need to call code enforcement or even bring up the question with respect to our fellow candidates.

When you decide to run for office there is a clear page on the DeKalb County web site that you are directed to if you ask the qualifying officer about rules:

Click on Candidates and towards the bottom you will see Signage:

That brings you to a very clear page of sign rules that I think any interested candidate would find:

http://web.co.dekalb.ga.us/Voter/pdf/2010signage.pdf

Now a lawyer might say you don't have to follow this rule, that he knows the exception, but is that really what we want for the future City of Brookhaven where most candidates are running without high paid political campaign managers. I think not, I think we should take the rules to heart and all of us should follow them. So the next time you see a sign right at the edge of the street, you can no that that candidate has not made it clear to his supporter what the rules are and that he or she would like them followed.

Some are more serious in my mind:

There should be no signs on public property, schools, parks and right of way. While we might agree that renting a pavilion at a public park might give you a little leeway, plastering them all over school and park property as has regularly happened to me is simply tawdry. It is quiet different to have them behind a table at a debate than lining the sidewalk of a public school as you walk in.  To me this is a clear insult to the pulbic which is paying for this land and factilities and might disagree with your political statement.

The rules clearly state that signs should be 10 feet from the right of way on streets where you have a driveway (curb-cut). But on streets where there is no driveway the sign should be within the build-able envelope, which means you have to check to see how close to the road you could have built your home to find out where the sign should be. This basically means if you don't have a driveway facing the street, if the land is vacant, the proper location is going to be way back beyond where they are being placed.

Futher on the corner of the street this mean back 10 feet in both directions, so all of these corners signs whether they legally on private property or not should not be there.

I have heard the argument, “I can't control what my supporters do”, to which I respond. Then you should not be elected to public office.

I think it is time to clean up the visual trash all around Brookhaven and I think it should start with our politicians leading the way.

I think we are better than the Vernon Jones exception and I think we can enforce the sign ordinance with leadership and a clear message to candidates for office.

If you and your supporters can't understand or follow the rules, if you want to employ the Vernon Jones exception as DeKalb County has done, then find another job, there are simply too many good candidates who chose not to lead this barrage of signs overwhelming our beautiful community, some of which I know are doing very reluctantly because of the high powered competition.

Of course you know you won't see any of mine out there. I am a Conservationist and any candidate who claims to be first and foremost a conservationist could never put out a massive quantity of yard signs. And yes I am speaking directly to Sandy Murray. She might talk the talk as a conservationist but the more I learn about her, she is not walking the walk.

So to quote comedian Bill Engvall, “Here's your sign” Brookhaven.  Lets start Brookhaven right and follow the rules.

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.

HamBurger October 30, 2012 at 08:11 PM
Mr. Thom, you raise some valid concerns. However, generally after an election the political signs seem to disappear fast. I know they did after the July vote for cityhood in just a couple of days. However, event signs tend to linger, namely the Brookhaven Arts festival signs from an event a week and a half ago. I like the reference to the Vernon Jones Exception. Let’s hope we can avoid it. You do know that the old city of North Atlanta was dissolved in part because there were “Exceptions” to the laws. Thus, folks got rid of that government. Please pass the yellow mustard!
Jack of Kings October 30, 2012 at 08:22 PM
I propose that we clean up the signs on Wednesday, November 7...unless there is a runoff.
Thomas T Telford October 31, 2012 at 01:15 AM
Tom to Thom. Come in Thom. It's Tom, I would love to see the first city hall of Brookhaven made up entirely of campaign signs. We could put it under one of the Marta overpasses. That would certainly be fun ya know!!! Hey but seriously.
Thomas T Telford October 31, 2012 at 01:16 AM
Bill, You volunteering or will you be too tired from yanking them up prior to Nov 7?
Ben Podgor October 31, 2012 at 09:33 PM
I would like to point out that I collected no funds, placed no signs or did anything other than make myself available. My web site: http://benjaminpodgor.com/one.html is the only thing I place before the voters. Ben Podgor, candidate for district 3, City of Brookhaven
John Q Public October 31, 2012 at 09:41 PM
Ben, If you had the chance and Calvin Giordano was knocking at your door, would you take campaign contributions from them?
John Q Public October 31, 2012 at 09:42 PM
Calvin Giordano stands to gain a $2,000,000 contract from Brookhaven. Wonder if thats why they are funding their "BOYS". PAY TO PLAY. TRICK OR TREAT. WHATEVER YOU WANT TO CALL IT. CROOKED S&IT! http://www.calvin-giordano.com/government-services/city-of-dunwoody-ga-administrative-services http://jkheneghan.com/city/meetings/2010/Oct/10252010_Contract_Amed_CalvinGiorda
don Gabacho November 01, 2012 at 01:22 AM
"..is that what we really want for the future of Brookhaven, to elect politicians who are so willfully ignoring the will of the people of DeKalb County..."---Thom Shepard I know this is Halloween but this is too much. And you had the gall to declare what is "intelligent" or not for anyone else to say? As an excuse not only for you not to listen to valid concerns but also beg others not to? To even plea the editor and moderator of the Patch to censor those concerns? Thom, if the "people of DeKalb County," including the people of Brookhaven, DeKalb County, GA had been conferred on even the proposal for the City of Brookhaven, GA, instead of state legislators, mayors, police chiefs and developers of areas even outside of DeKalb County, there would have been ***no*** City of Brookhaven. As it is, you make the policing of temporary yard signs paramount to even who is going to police us. And you want to be elected? When the Mayor could decide who is to be even our Police Chief? When will your masquerade end?
Jack of Kings November 01, 2012 at 01:38 AM
DOES EVERYONE believe that the Mayor will have dictatorial powers to hire and fire whomever he/she wants to? I hope people are aware that Council Members that are elected will deliberate and then vote on who to hire,--not the Mayor. He may have input, but he does not have a formal vote. The Mayor votes only to break ties in the voting of the four council members. This Pay to Play conspiracy is so transparently partisan, its ridiculous. If I was running for Council, I would find all this BS about Pay to Play pretty insulting. Thank goodness there are only 40 people that visit this site.
Ben Podgor November 01, 2012 at 01:55 AM
John Q Public: To answer your question. My answer is no. I did not seek nor accept any contributions. Maybe I put too much faith in the ability of the voters to choose the best candidate. All of the candidates are good people. They are making themselves targets for attacks. The most active in their prior public life do however carry heavy baggage. I hope that if elected, they do not feel obligated to continue to look out for whatever cause they were working for. This is first public effort, outside of my work with a veterans organization. All I ask for is that people check my qualifications, because my background and experience obligates me to make myself available. Please see: http://benaminpodgor.com/one.html Ben Podgor
Ben Podgor November 01, 2012 at 02:02 AM
I must correct my statement, above. When I say this is my first public effort, I mean in Atlanta, GA. Am originally from New York and did engage in public effort there. Ben Podgor
don Gabacho November 01, 2012 at 02:46 AM
"DOES EVERYONE believe that the Mayor will have dictatorial powers to hire and fire whomever he/she wants to?"---Phillip I certainly don't. Do you really think anyone, other than Thom, will allow themselves be led to think so? "When the Mayor could decide who is to be even our Police Chief?" means what it says: "could decide" as in being the possible tie-breaker of the city-counsel's vote. As remote as that may be, not remote enough for the Palcio's anoited one and strawman. As always you deliberately attempt to mislead from the sheer fact that, as it stands, and as even the interim-government told Thom with no protest---quite the contrary---the Police Chief will be "non-elected." "Independent" Thom even supplied the Palacio's, and your, excuse: some clutter about Sheriffs being elected but not Police Chiefs. "Thank goodness there are only 40 people that visit this site." If so, then why do you?
Brookhaven Maven November 01, 2012 at 03:54 AM
Thom Shepard -- Yes, the sign codes apply to political signs, and yes, you are right about where people can and can not place them. However --- DeKalb Code also requires the property owners to maintain the public rights-of-way (sidewalks, curbs and gutters) and easements in front of their homes and offices. My take is that if the property owners must keep the grass cut, the sidewalks clear, the trees and shrubs trimmed, then they should be allowed to put out a candidate's sign in that same space if they want to do so. Ms. Murray and District 1 council candidate Kevin Meadors are illegally sticking signs all over the place, including at intersections and our public parks. Even though I would not have otherwise voted for either, I certainly wouldn't vote for them just on this basis alone. Illegally posting vote-for-me signs is a pretty good indicator of one's character, or lack there-of. -- The Maven
HamBurger November 01, 2012 at 12:20 PM
Mr. BM, “DeKalb Code also requires the property owners to maintain the public rights-of-way (sidewalks, curbs and gutters) and easements in front of their homes and offices. My take is that if the property owners must keep the grass cut, the sidewalks clear, the trees and shrubs trimmed.” This may be so, but earlier this year folks certainly were all up in arms about the two vacant lots and the rental house at the corner of Windsor Parkway and Hermance owned by citizens living in Brittany and Hampton Hall requiring maintenance. Everyone directed their anger, not at the property owners, but DeKalb County. DeKalb did their yard work for them. I wonder, did these citizens receive a bill for cleaning up their property? More importantly, will the city of Brookhaven continue to do their property clean up for them? http://tinyurl.com/a7rfsf7 http://tinyurl.com/aql5vxg Special hamburger anyone?
Thom Shepard November 01, 2012 at 01:47 PM
Brookhaven Maven, I think the point with the signs is not that individual homeowners should be sanctioned for putting signs too close to the road, but that leaders should convey to their supporters that they want to be seen as not trying to get an unfair advantage in the campaign by breaking the rules as they have been stated. We qualify as candidates under the rules and law of DeKalb County, unless a rules is superceded by the state or federal authority. So when our county government places a sign ordinace directly on the candidate page for voting information, I think any respectful candidate should abide by such rules. Thus as leaders, candidates should in the least instruct their supporters that they want their signs to be placed in a way that follows the rules and thus play fair. If those with the big money choose to ignore this rule, to get an unfair advantage over those who do follow it, or like me who choose not to add to the visually degrading clutter of signs or contibute to the landfills, then my argument is that those are not the kind of candidates you can trust. The law does matter, and when candidates just choose to ignore one law, and thus make other candidates feel they have to break the law to comptete with them, does that not degrade the whole system. Is it ok to just ignore some laws because that is how it has always been done in Georgia politics? I think in Brookhaven we can be better than that and it should start with our leaders.
Brookhaven Maven November 02, 2012 at 01:11 AM
Thom Shepard -- I got your point. Political candidates should be held to a higher standard (or, at least, to the standard established by ordinance) than the average citizen. I don't disagree. And, no --- the candidates should not be allowed to ignore the law. What a shame we must have an ethics committee to ensure they don't. MY point is that since the easement / right-of-way in front of my house is my sole responsibility to maintain, then I should be allowed to use it in whatever manner it suits me. If I want to put a lighted inflatable Santa in that space, then I should be able to do so. If I want to put a life-sized replica of a dinosaur there, then that should be my prerorogative. If I want to show support for a specific political candidate by putting his / her yard sign in that space, then there should be no reason for me not to do so. We have too much government --- too many rules and regulations --- too much bureaucratic bs red tape already. I can't wait to see what kinds of encumbrances a new city imposes on us. -- The Maven
Kestrel Larson November 02, 2012 at 01:45 AM
"A government big enough to give you everything you need, is a government big enough to take away everything that you have." Thomas Jefferson

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