City rules govern how large campaign signs can be and where they can – and can’t – be placed.
Mayoral candidate Chris Adkins is claiming that Ocoee is unfairly singling him out for alleged infractions over his political campaign signs, while ignoring similar transgressions by other candidates.
In an email to VoxPopuli, Adkins said the city is “targeting my campaign” by punishing him for violations, while letting the other candidates off the hook. Adkins called his treatment by the city as “just plain crap.”
At issue is subsection D of section 8-8, within Ocoee’s Land Development Code, which spells out the rules for political campaign signs, such as their size, placement and removal in residential and other districts. For instance, it says that campaign signs cannot be placed on public property. However, a maximum of two non-illuminated signs, not larger than 4 square feet in size, can be placed in residential sites with the “express consent of the occupant of the premises.”
Adkins provided VoxPopuli with an email — with the subject line “Selective Code Enforcement” — that he sent to the city. In the email, he cites several instances of other candidates who allegedly violated the city ordinance. For example, he wrote: “8 W. Silver Star Rd which is zoned R-1AA, strictly prohibits any political signs, and yet the two current members of the commission have signs located at this intersection.” In the email, he said he was the only candidate who was being punished for breaking campaign sign rules. Specifically, he noted that one of his signs, which apparently violated size restrictions, was placed at a W. Oakland Avenue property at 8:30 p.m. on March 5. By 10 a.m. the next morning, the homeowner had “paperwork for the violation on her door.” She was given until March 8 to remove the sign or be fined.
“This sign is not a danger, nor was it erected to go against the Code. Unlike those who have held office for 35 years who know better and put signs up illegally all over town” said Adkins, referring to Mayor Rusty Johnson, in his email to the city.
Ocoee City Clerk Melanie Sibbitt told VoxPopuli that she had spent considerable time on the phone with Adkins, discussing signage rules and how the situation at W. Oakland Avenue could be remedied by putting up a properly sized sign.
Adkins said in his email that he “didn’t know the size was wrong in the first place.”
There are many details to a campaign, which is why every candidate for office receives a binder filled with the rules and regulations for running a political campaign — including information about sign size and placement. Adkins said he made a “simple mistake,” but he also criticized the city for giving other candidates more leeway, namely the mayor.
Johnson, in an email to VoxPopuli, acknowledged that campaign sign laws are rarely adhered to, saying, “During national state and county elections, signs are all over illegally.”
He followed up in that vein during the Tuesday city commission meeting, in a discussion about whether campaign signs would be allowed at this weekend’s Ocoee Music Festival. (They won’t be. Though T-shirts and campaign flyers are permitted.)
“It seems like our rules don’t mean anything. Nobody seems to go by them,” Johnson said. “Our rules say no signs and no pop-up tents [on city property].”
That was a reference to when Adkins’ campaign tent set up outside of Ocoee City Hall the night of the mayoral forum, sponsored by the Woman’s Club of Ocoee — despite the prohibition against campaigning on city property.
At least one Ocoee resident is perturbed by the proliferation of campaign signs. Tim Alcuri, who has filed several complaints with the city about such signs, told VoxPopuli that the sheer number and illegal placement of signs are making “our city look trashy.” He said he has contacted all three mayoral candidates and city officials to address the situation but has received mixed responses. When asked why this issue was important to him, he replied:
“How can I have faith and confidence in my elected officials if they can pick and choose which ordinances they follow ... if you can’t follow the simple ordinances, how can we trust you to follow the bigger ordinances.”