- The Washington Times - Monday, December 15, 2014


The folks who pushed the marijuana legalization issue onto the D.C. ballot are scofflaws.

They are running afoul of D.C. rules and regulations regarding political campaign signage, regulations which stipulate that signs, posters and such be removed no later than 30 days of their election.

The pro-marijuana campaign won, with Initiative 71 winning better than 2-1 voter approval. (All that remains is whether Congress will also give a nod after it reconvenes in 2015.)

But the people with the D.C. Cannabis Campaign aren’t the only ones in violation.

So is D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton (winner).

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And David A. Catania (loser).

And Anita Bonds (winner).

And Lori Masters (loser).

And Brian Hart (loser).

And Eugene Puryear (loser).

And Natale Lino Stracuzzi (loser).

And Eric J. Jones (loser).

In fact, those were the names of notable campaigns that ended Election Day, Nov. 4.

The D.C. Office of Campaign clearly spells out the rules and municipal regulations governing campaign signage: “The following excerpts from Title 24 of the District of Columbia Municipal Regulations (D.C.M.R.) provide specifics of the law that pertain to the posting and removal of campaign materials in public space. 108.1 No person shall affix a sign, advertisement or poster to any public lamppost or appurtenances of a lamppost, except as provided in accordance with this section. 108.6 A sign, advertisement, or poster related to a specific event shall be removed no later than thirty (30) days following the event to which it is related.”

Hmm. So let’s see.

The general elections were held on Nov. 4. The online version of this column was posted Dec. 15, and the print publication date of this column was Dec. 16. It’s a simple matter of arithmetic.

The D.C. Cannabis Campaign, whose treasurer is Martin Thomas, and other movers and shakers who have not removed their signs are literally trashing the city.

I hardly drove the entire 68.3 square miles of the city to present you a picture of the problem, but Ward 5 and Ward 6 can’t possibly be the only wards that still have campaign signs butting heads with the law.

The campaign literature could have been removed as early as Nov. 5, when, for example, Mr. Catania knew he most assuredly had lost his race for mayor to Muriel Bowser and when Mrs. Norton knew voters would be returning her to Congress.

And here’s another rub: There aren’t just one or two posters here or there.

I rode along major corridors and neighborhood streets within a few miles of The Washington Times and here’s what I noted: The light-blue and white Catania posters cannot be missed. They are in front of Minor Elementary School on 15th Street Northeast, more than a half-dozen are along the H Street corridor, which is trying to win a gentrification crown.

Indeed, Mr. Catania — a former Republican, current independent and soon-to-be ex-D.C. Council member — is even trashing Lincoln Park on Capitol Hill and the front of the Giant supermarket, the “new” one on H Street near Union Station.

Mrs. Norton’s rich navy-and-white signs are also at Lincoln Park, which is ironic since her congressional oversight includes our national parks and she lives on Capitol Hill.

Now comes accountability.

The city should send out eight, single-member patrols to each of the eight wards to log and capture campaign scofflaws. Offenders should be neither warned nor notified that they are in violation of the 30-day rule.

Sock it to them in the mail.

Like red-light runners and speeding motorists, offenders should not be allowed to plead ignorance of the law. And even if Mayor-elect Muriel Bowser is a scofflaw, send her the proof in the mail and tell her to put up or shut up. Lesser-known candidates should be nabbed, too.

And, above all, the worst the city could do is ignore the problem. It was not the city’s responsibility to post the signs and it’s not the city’s responsibility to remove the signs.

The campaigns and the candidates must be held accountable.

It’s sort of like the broken windows theory: In the big scheme of politics and the environment, little things can easily become a huge, compounded problem.

Besides, these people know better.

That they do not care is our problem.

The city needs to move quickly: We’ve got special Council elections in April, and potential candidates are already staking their claims.

Deborah Simmons can be reached at [email protected]

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