Talking in Signs

It's that time of year, and the "vote for me" signs are sprouting like weeds. (Very much like, and in close proximity to, the weeds that have taken over the flowerbeds on the bypass, those desperate looking things planted a few years ago for the Special Olympics and abandoned since. Ah, when we were pretty.)Our own batty uncle Lee Pavão recently got on WCHL to propose a conspiracy theory involving the strategic placement of certain people's signs next to one another and how this plot reveals the stink of brimstone in the dark heart of certain local politicians and on and on etc etc. I'll let Pavão search out the political meaning revealed in the proximity of inanimate bodies in space. I'm more interested in the vocabulary of our local signage.You can't begin to get into the question, at least not these days, without acknowledging that Council Member Jim Ward is the undisputed and reigning champion in the battle of the election signs. In the last election, Ward was an absolute unknown, but then he busted out with the famous "fern sign" -- I believe that's a Christmas fern, a native species -- that was so simple and so beautiful and so well-designed that you just wanted to find Jim and take him in your arms and whisper to him of rhododendrons and laurels and greenways and composted manure while fanning him with fern fronds. That sign ruled. It continues to rule, since Ward has recycled it, adding only a "re-elect" tag to the top. Ward's sign says, "I'm green, and I know what the hell a native species is, and I ain't afraid to use it." It's bold and beautiful.Ward wasn't the first to "go green," as Sally Greene is putting it on her signs this year. "Green" is to Chapel Hill what red, white, and blue is to north Raleigh. (A recent drive through north Raleigh confirms this.) Green means a whole lot around here. It means you're "for" the environment, and you're against people who are against it. It means you're "for neighborhoods" and against, well, whatever is against neighborhoods. It means you're for clean water and against dirty water.In short, everybody's green these days. Candidates who are truly ready to make the hard decisions and sacrifices to protect our watersheds, natural habitats, rural areas and indigenous species -- they'll have to come up with a new color.Sally Greene, of course, is all over the green connection. She's "Sally GO Greene", which sounds vaguely like an old slogan for Kelly Tires, but why should we quibble? She's green and Greene in every way, and it would have been unfair to expect her not to go the green route.It is not, however, unfair to expect her to avoid the bad-pun-on-my-name route, but she's not alone. Fellow green-signer Cam "Chapel" Hill "First" couldn't resist the punning either. (See, he's named Hill, and so is the town! Awesome!)At least those two green-signers were bold enough to get a little personality across in their signs. The other green-signer, Rudy Juliano, put out mostly lifeless signs with the requisite -- yawn -- website address at the bottom. But at least he got a leaf or something in there. (Is that a leaf? I stand ready to be corrected.)To be fair, parts of trees are not symbols exclusive to the green-signers. Thatcher Freund has a leaf and an acorn and a slogan on his purple sign. The only thing I remember about the slogan is that it's eminently forgettable. It's in the vein of "Be All You Can Be," the kind of slogan that acts as a soporific on me, making my eyelids very heavy and my vision blurred. (Those signs are a menace to drivers!) I'm not sure what the significance is of the purple color coupled with the obvious green symbology. Is he an aristocrat who likes trees? An environmentalist who likes purple? (There's a question for next forum. Somebody take note.)Freund's sign has this much going for it: you can read it. If you're of the obscurant, what's-that-say school of sign design, you don't want people to read your sign. You're on the down low, baby! There's one sign that appears to include arrows and flow charts and Venn diagrams and I still don't know whose sign it is. Bill Strom's sign is partly of this school, making use of what appears to be the flight-pattern of a ballistic missile over a Matisse cutout, until you get close enough to see that it's his website address arcing gracefully over a silhouette of our fair town. Once you get on top of it, you realize he's got trees in it! He's green! But he's also got buildings in it! Bold, very bold. And it's blue, which is the new green. And if you missed all that as you zoomed by on some of our new asphalt on Franklin Street and 15-501 (asphalt that appears to be laid randomly and at unpredictable intervals, just for kicks. Those DOT guys are a riot!), at least you can see his name in big bold, neat letters: STROM. The same can't be said for this year's candidate for unique sign of the year: Mike McSwain's spray-paint-on-folded-pizza-box signs. I'm inclined to think of McSwain's entry into the signage competition as something like political art, a withering critique of the superficiality and half-assed symbology of the typical vote-for-me sign. Either that, or the kid's got no money. Wasn't he going around telling people last spring that he had the support of the restaurant owner's association? You'd think those folks could kick in a little something to McSwain's campaign fund. Or, maybe those really are pizza boxes...



and Bachman's is a pseudo-masonic symbol -- perhaps to show the strength of her secret cabal.

on the punk side, strom's looks like a skull from the right distance.

What's in a sign? My son (age 12) disagrees with Cam's daughter -- he enjoys a pun and thus thinks Cam's sign is best, but he puts Bill Strom's sign in firm second place. I give Bill's a first place in the sign category - I love green (and Greene for that matter) and its symbolism, but it's all too predictable for a Chapel Hill race. Strom's sign stands out and has an identity with the town.

Contrary to Pavao's claims, the thing I like the BEST about the signs is the way they inevitably cluster together. Especially with 12 candidates running for 4 town council seats (combined with my failing middle aged memory), it's fabulous to have a visual reminder of ALL the contenders at practically every intersection, regardless of how one ranks them in their visual appeal or political symbolism. I consider it a real voters' aid and a possible traffic calming measure.

Rudy's sign has little trees, Andrea Rohrbacher's sign says "Weaving a great community "(I think) Thatcher's says: "Be all we can be".......Running in Chapel Hill means complying with certain conventions; signs being one of them, then endorsement letters, then endorsement lists. In the last election Lee Pavao did these things better than anyone and got beat. This gives rise to some hope that people are paying attention to what the candidates are saying in addition to how many signs thay have. Your assessment of the signs is pretty good but my daughter likes Bill's the best.


Community Guidelines

By using this site, you agree to our community guidelines. Inappropriate or disruptive behavior will result in moderation or eviction.


Content license

By contributing to OrangePolitics, you agree to license your contributions under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 United States License.

Creative Commons License

Zircon - This is a contributing Drupal Theme
Design by WeebPal.