- The Washington Times - Friday, January 18, 2002

Anthony A. Williams, who is seeking re-election as the District's mayor in November, yesterday announced his administration's latest crackdown on illegal signs and posters.

The unsightly advertisements, plastered by the hundreds on walls, buildings and poles throughout the city, have been targeted before by the mayor, who campaigned in 1998 on promises to clean up the posters, along with graffiti and litter.

Williams administration officials also complained last February that the proliferation of tattered and garish posters gave the city a black eye just as media and VIPs were arriving in town for last year's NBA All-Star Game. Officials said then that the city's laws governing the posters were ineffective, and complained that the statutes targeted the crews gluing and taping the signs to walls instead of the businesses paying the crews to put up the posters.

Mr. Williams, flanked by D.C. Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey and Department of Public Works Director Leslie Hotaling, said yesterday the new crackdown is aimed at the offenders putting up the posters. Previously, enforcement of the statutes prohibiting the posters had been handled solely by a 16-member DPW crew, the Solid Waste Education and Enforcement Program inspectors. Now, the $35 tickets can be handed out by any Metropolitan Police Department officer.

"By taking steps to make it easier for police officers to issue tickets the District's effort to reduce postering and visual blight across the city is greatly expanded," said Vincent Spaulding, coordinator of the Mayor's Clean City Initiative.

Chief Ramsey added that poster proliferation leads to further crimes.

"They are often a harbinger of more serious crime and disorder problems in our neighborhoods."

During his first campaign for the mayor's post, Mr. Williams made removal of graffiti, litter and posters a priority, but as he enters his fourth year in office, reviews of his efforts have been mixed.

In 1999, the mayor spent $170,000 on two anti-graffiti trucks, equipped with high-power hoses and liquid solvent to remove paint, but there have also been budget cuts during his tenure in the Department of Public Works that led to the dissolving of a rapid-response unit devoted to taking down illegal posters.

The mayor's 2000 budget earmarked $175,000 for fighting graffiti, but the city only spent $50,000 on graffiti removal last year.

During the mayor's press conference, several dozen protesters turned up to tell Mr. Williams to spend more time helping the homeless and less time on cleaning up signs.

Protesters from Olive Branch, an advocacy group for the homeless, said they are upset over Mr. Williams' decision to close a shelter at the Reeves Center, a municipal office building at 14th and U streets NW, where the mayor held his press conference.

Harold Moss, an organizer with Olive Branch, said the closing of the Reeves Center has created crowding at the La Casa shelter, in the 1400 block of Irving Street NW.

Mr. Moss also said the mayor's priorities are wrong.

"We could care less about what was he was talking about," said Mr. Moss.

"The problem was that he was at the Reeves Center. Our agenda is totally different from him. We're dealing with people who are suffering on the street.

"He probably does not realize what he's doing. He's too distant from the problems he's creating. I don't think he's doing it on purpose," said Mr. Moss.

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