Ingenious way to fight sign litter in Jacksonville is being wasted
by Ron Littlepage, Florida Times-Union, 2/5
In 2010, the City Council boldly declared a “zero tolerance” policy for litter.
In passing the law, the council declared that “Jacksonville citizens believe that their city should be a model for beauty that is not surpassed by any city in America.” Therefore, the city would become “litter free.”
Ha. Ha. That’s a good one.
It’s not that the new law wasn’t strong. It was. In particular it went after “snipe signs,” those annoying signs that pop up on public rights of way faster than negative ads in the Republican presidential primary advertising everything from weight loss programs to offers to buy junk cars. Tracking down who is responsible for the signs that litter intersections all over Jacksonville should not be that difficult. Most include phone numbers to call. And the ordinance is quite explicit about who should get slapped with a citation.
The ordinance reads: “The person or business who owns or is advertised or identified on the sign shall be presumed to have permitted the placement of the snipe sign in the absence of evidence to the contrary.”
The penalty for breaking the law is progressively stiff.
The first violation is $50; the second, $75. For repeat scofflaws — five or more violations — the fine is $350. And those fines are for each sign.
So why are the snipe signs still everywhere?
Because the ordinance isn’t being enforced.
“A warning citation and education is the first step and brings the violator into compliance,” the Mayor’s Office wrote in an email. “No money has been collected to date under this ordinance.” The snipers may indeed be slow learners, but if they haven’t learned about the law in the year and a half since it was passed, it’s past time to put some muscle behind it. The problem isn’t just the clutter on our streets. Also missing out because of a lack of enforcement are the city’s bus stops and bus shelters. The ordinance provided that 70 percent of the fines collected would be put into a trust fund “to be maintained for the purpose of keeping bus stops and bus shelters well maintained, in good repair and litter free.”
Seventy percent of zero isn’t going to help a whole lot.
The other 30 percent was supposed to go toward paying for enforcing the ordinance. If the excuse is that deep budget cuts the last few years have reduced the number of employees who can enforce the law, there are enough snipe signs out there to finance an army.
The ordinance also allows for individual citizens to be certified to issue citations. So far, five volunteers have been certified, according to the Mayor’s Office. Apparently there isn’t a lot of encouragement to do so.
Zero tolerance for litter? Not until the snipers get hit in the pocketbook.
(Snipe Signs in Trashville Part 2),
How you can help clean up trashy signs
by Ron Littlepage, Florida Times-Union, 2/8/12
It turns out a lot of people are fed up with the proliferation of snipe signs that has earned Jacksonville the nickname of Trashville. I heard from many of them after writing a column earlier this week about the lack of enforcement of a city ordinance banning the illegal signs that are stuck to utility poles and placed in public rights of way all over town.
You know the signs I mean:
Lose weight. We buy junk cars. We buy houses. Websites $99.
And by enforcement I mean fining the repeat offenders as the ordinance allows, which hasn’t been done, rather than just having city crews occasionally pick up the unsightly signs. Hitting the snipers in the pocketbook would get their attention. Quite a few people who are tired of the mess are picking up the signs on their own, which the ordinance specifically allows. According to the ordinance, snipe signs are considered abandoned property and are “thereby subject to being removed by any person, so long as such removal is accomplished in a safe and peacefulmanner.”
Just be careful out there, folks.
So now that you have the snipe signs, what do you do with them besides adding them to the city landfill? One reader wrote that they make good tomato stakes. Here’s another good use: The Teacher Supply Depot at 3108 Lenox Ave. will be happy to take the signs. “We do reuse the snipe signs,” the Depot’s Chris Buckley wrote in an email. “We have been making bird houses, recycle bins and other kinds of fun items.”
Ridding our neighborhoods and streets of eyesores and converting them into something useful at the same time, now that’s taking lemons and turning them into lemonade. (An aside plug for the Depot: “If anyone has old craft supplies, children’s games or books, sewing odds and ends, office or school supplies, science materials, paper or holiday supplies, or anything like these,
we are also interested,” Buckley wrote.
In passing the ordinance in 2010, the City Council declared that there would be “zero tolerance” for litter, including snipe signs, and that Jacksonville would become “litter free.”
That goal obviously hasn’t been achieved.
On Saturday, a sign at the corner of Riverside Avenue and Post Street pointed to a gun show. I followed the signs, stuck in the public rights of way at regular intervals, for several miles down Post. Later that day, I saw the same signs posted many miles away by the Jacksonville Equestrian Center. But these two signs, also spotted on Riverside, took the cake.
One sign advertised a website for singles. Beside it was a separate sign advertising a deal to makesnipe signs for $1 each.
The scofflaws are bold because they are getting away with it.
That has to change, or we will ALL remain Trashville.