Candidates for local office blanketed Baltimore with thousands of signs this weekend, as the "green machine" campaign team of Mayor Martin O'Malley and placard-waving volunteers of his opponent Andrey Bundley -- among many others -- took advantage of the first weekend that it was legal to put up lawn signs.
City sanitation enforcement workers have ticketed the campaigns of Bundley and O'Malley for illegally posting signs on public property, utility poles or other forbidden areas. More than a dozen improper Bundley stickers were observed on utility poles yesterday, and the candidate said no one told him that this was wrong.
Robert Murrow, a spokesman for the Department of Public Works, said yesterday that the city plans to announce a crackdown on illegal signs this week. City law allows for fines of up to $100 per offense for posting signs on public property.
"Signs on public property are illegal, no matter what they are for -- candidates, or music concerts, or anything else," he said.
Before last week, city election law allowed campaign signs in the windows of privately owned buildings. But political signs on lawns, or the outside of buildings, were not allowed until Thursday, the last day a candidate could withdraw from local races, according to city law.
About 300 O'Malley volunteers put up about 3,000 lawn signs during the weekend, said Kimberlin Love, campaign spokeswoman. The number might double by the municipal primary Sept. 9, she added.
"We are going to be putting up campaign signs throughout the campaign, but this was the first big push, so that people would see the O'Malley green machine is in full effect," said Love, referring to a nickname for the volunteers who pass out the bright green O'Malley signs, stickers and literature.
Love said the campaign received one citation from the city Thursday for an illegal lawn sign on Northern Parkway. "It was a mistake by a volunteer worker," Love said. "We are trying to be very consistent, and we are not going to be doing anything illegal in our campaign."
A white van carrying five O'Malley volunteers rolled down Spaulding Avenue in the Park Heights neighborhood yesterday, with workers stepping out to put up his campaign lawn signs with the slogan "Because Better Isn't Good Enough."
Dana Henderson, a 25-year-old receptionist and mother of three, asked for one on her lawn.
"It used to be there was so much drug dealing here, my kids couldn't even come outside and play," said Henderson. "But the dealing hasn't been nearly as bad since O'Malley took office. Now my children can come outside, which is a big change."
Making a challenge
Across town in East Baltimore, volunteers for O'Malley's main opponent in the Democratic primary, Bundley, said they had put up about 2,000 yard signs.
Bundley, the principal of Walbrook High School who has a doctorate in education, knocked on doors and passed out signs in the 5600 block of Cedonia Ave., accompanied by about 10 volunteers, including his two sisters. Gloria Bundley stood in the street waving a large picture of her brother with the words "Dr. Bundley for Mayor" at passing cars.
Up and down the blocks around him were scores of Bundley lawn signs, as well as at least nine large Bundley stickers that had been attached to utility poles and traffic lights. The stickers also appeared on several poles along North Avenue and Park Heights Avenue.
When asked by a reporter whether he knew that placing stickers on utility poles was illegal, Bundley said: "I hadn't heard that. Nobody said anything to us about it."
'Emphasis on education'
Bundley put one lawn sign in front of the home of Ted Smith, a 61-year-old former assistant principal at Northwestern High School. Smith said he's a supporter because Bundley delivered an inspirational graduation speech at Northwestern three years ago, and as a principal seemed to be stronger on educational issues than O'Malley.
"We do have a problem with crime and drugs in this city, but it all comes back to education," Smith said. "That is the reason I was drawn to Dr. Bundley, because of his emphasis on education. We have lost the war on drugs, and so now we have to focus on education as the answer."