Burbank’s Love Affair with Illegal Political Signs

It’s that time of the year — Halloween decorations adorn suburban porches, autumn leaves begin turning shades of amber, and illegally placed political yard signs litter the streets and sidewalks of Burbank.

Political signs collected from Burbank public property

What is striking, however, is how brazen candidates are about breaking the law, skirting signage regulations that limit signs to private property. In Burbank, certain candidates blast local citizens with hundreds, if not thousands of wasted pieces of cardboard and metal, illegally placed on public property. As election day nears, the number of signs has surged in the past few weeks.

A quick phone call to the city clerks office confirmed that yes — political yard signs posted on public property are indeed a municipal code violation. Wannabe politicians and their “volunteer supporters” (or more likely, paid gig workers) are essentially littering when they jab those metal posts into the ground.

As a local resident who has been worn down by the seemingly daily parade of politicians who act as if they’re above the law, I felt that at least I could try to make some sort of impact at the local level by digging deeper into this phenomenon — while doing some much needed litter pickup community service at the same time. I took it upon myself to do a sweep of Burbank, removing signs in illegal locations — my Operation Political Trash Toss 2020 grassroots initiative, if you will.

In order to pull as unbiased of insights as possible from my pet project, I followed two core ground rules for signage removal: 1. Only remove signs on public property. Signs properly placed on private property were left undisturbed. 2. Remove ALL signs, regardless of political affiliation.

My 90 minute clean-up netted 84 signs in total. That’s about one sign per minute! Below is a breakdown of the findings of my journey. Determination of political leaning was based on 1) if candidates, endorsements from party-aligned organizations and/or alignment of candidate platforms with the two main parties; and 2) if measure or prop, position either being endorsed by a party-aligned organization or position alignment with respective party historical positions. Note that I did not designate political affiliations to Treasurer candidates, as their platforms did not make political affiliations clear (and this role is by nature relatively more apolitical).

Without further ado:

Illegally placed political signs in Burbank
Party breakdown of signs

Now to the fun part — some revealing insights:

  • Republican-leaning candidates / positions make up a lion’s share of illegal signage, coming in at a whopping 42 total signs and 8 candidates/positions,more than double the 18 total signs and 4 candidates for Democrats (notably, there were no illegal Democrat positions on props or measures). Half of the top 4 culprits were Republican, with Michael Graves coming in at a hefty 17 signs and Michael Lee Gogin at 9 signs.
  • Treasurers also love to litter. The other half of the Top 4 signage offenders were Treasurer candidates — Krystle Palmer with 15, and Darin Shea tied with Gogin at 9.
  • There was only one Democratic city council candidate among our offenders: Nick Schultz, coming in at #5 with an impressive 7 signs. Perhaps Democratic candidates simply don’t post illegal signs and follow the rules more often, or perhaps their signs are being singled out by other street cleaning citizens — I’d bet my pennies on the first reason. Interestingly, one of Schultz’ main platform positions is protecting/increasing funding for first responders (police) and shares endorsements with Republican candidates, so he should be considered a centrist Democrat (at best). The other Democratic candidates, with the exception of Schoolboard candidate Emily Weisberg, are running for broader County / District level seats.
  • Talking about District level seats, while I only grabbed 5 Eric Early signs, they were literally drilled into city telephone poles with screws — I actually broke a sweat getting them down. I saw many others illegally placed high up on city lampposts, unfortunately out of my reach.
  • In a slightly alarming turn of events, a No on Prop 25 (bail bond proposition) sign was placed alongside official Burbank “get out the vote” signs just outside our city jail (which is itself part of the Police Headquarters). Let’s hope an opportunistic citizen did that, and it’s not the work of a department breaking its own laws…though I’m running out of optimism these days.

Anecdotally, while I didn’t see many Paul Herman signs on public property, most people who live in Burbank can recount a time, circa two months ago, when his yellow yard signs littered almost every major intersection in the city. It looks like his campaign may have gotten the memo that it’s indeed illegal to place signs there. However, I did see numerous Paul Herman signs in front of “Available” commercial property buildings (he’s a huge real estate developer, so go figure).

The day after Operation Political Trash Toss, I did a quick drive around the areas that I’d cleaned and less than 24 hours later, there were already a slew new illegal signs up for Nick Schultz. Nick moved to Burbank barely a year ago, so maybe he’s just trying to meet the neighbors…like a really aggressive, illegal form of unsolicited Jello molds ¯\_()_/¯.

Giving respect where it’s due, here’s a list of city council candidates who have enough regard for Burbank’s municipal code and our environment to not plaster public property with illegal ads:

Konstantine Anthony
Linda Bessin
Sharis Manokian
Tim Murphy
Tamala Takahashi

If you have yet to fill out your ballot, perhaps take this anecdotal study as what it is — anecdotal — but please, PLEASE do your research before blindly selecting a candidate simply because you saw their name illegally tossed in a bush at the corner of a Walgreens.

Southern California mother, daughter, sister and concerned citizen