Local political signs compete for attention

HARLINGEN — Signs of the upcoming city election are popping up almost everywhere.

Big and small, political signs clutter busy intersections and line the roadways all across town.

Along some of the busiest streets, some campaign signs even plaster trailers parked along the road.

The corrugated plastic signs pitch candidates running for mayor and city commission in the May 7 election. Others trumpet Cameron County candidates who face a May 24 primary runoff election.

Melissa Boykin helps see that signs don’t muddle the city’s landscape.

“If we see a clutter that appears to be too much or signs that haven’t been taken down in time, we go to code enforcement,” said Boykin, executive director of Keep Harlingen Beautiful.

But it’s Juan Leal’s job to make sure campaign signs don’t violate the city’s ordinance.

“If the political sign has a violation, we notify the candidate on the sign,” Leal, the city’s code enforcement manger, said in a statement.

Most violations stem from placement of signs within right-of-ways, Leal said.

Candidates have to obtain permits to post signs 36 square feet or larger.

So Leal measures the signs to make sure they comply with local laws.

So far, he’s received only one complaint about campaign signs.

“We take it serious, just like any other complaint or violation, whether it be political signs or signs in general,” Leal said.

Leal said he checks signs to make sure they don’t violate state law, which prohibits the posting of campaign signs earlier than 90 days before an election.

The law requires signs be removed within 10 days after the election.

“We try to keep an eye on the political sign and all the candidates are aware of the 90-day period,” Leal said.

During campaign season, political signs become a big part of the city’s landscape.

For 38 years, Jay Meade has worked political campaigns in the Rio Grande Valley.

For candidates, political signs are critical to their campaigns, said Meade, owner of Meade Marketing.

And size matters.

“You want to be as big as you can be without being obtrusive,” said Meade, a former Harlingen city commissioner.

Meade said the signs’ designs are critical to their effectiveness.

“We put a lot of effort into design,” Meade said. “A small, well-designed sign can compete against a big not-so-well designed sign.”

For campaign signs, it’s location, location, location.

“You want high-traffic count,” Meade said. “A sign’s no good if it isn’t read.”

In neighborhoods, he said, homeowners play a big role when it comes to placing campaign signs.

“In a residential area, you consider a yard sign to show the property owner is in support of that candidate,” Meade said.

Good political signs trumpet the candidate’s name, said Miguel Plata, co-owner of C&M Graphics & Signs.

“The main focal point is the candidate’s name,” said Plata, who has designed and produced signs for political candidates for 12 years. “You basically want to hit people over the head with the name.”

New technology helps signs boast the candidate’s face, Plata said.

“Pretty much all the signs you see have the candidates’ photo,” he said.

Bright, bold colors help campaign signs stand out on a busy intersection.

“You’re looking for high-contrast colors, so you use colors like red, blue and black,” Plata said.