Moyer urges city to say no to stickers

Free decals cost $50,000 a year to get removed

`The new version of graffiti'

Annapolis

January 23, 2004|By Jason Song | Jason Song,SUN STAFF

It may not be as dramatic as Baltimore's "Believe" campaign, but Annapolis is launching its own public relations initiative: Say no to stickers.

Mayor Ellen O. Moyer has sent a letter to local businesses, asking them to not give away so many free promotional stickers or to make people pay for them. She also asked merchants to tell customers to use the decals responsibly.

Annapolis spends nearly $50,000 a year to remove stickers from public property such as walls and light poles, city officials estimate. "Frankly, $50,000 to clean up the mess could be better spent on recreation programs or paving," Moyer wrote in her Jan. 6 letter. "Stickers have become the new version of graffiti."

No one is saying that Annapolis' sticker shock is as problematic as Baltimore's struggle with drugs and violence, which residents are urged by city leaders to "believe" they can overcome.

But in Annapolis, where tourism is the top trade and city workers put up flags, flowerpots and wreaths for holidays and Navy football games, officials say stickers send the wrong message to visitors.

"This is a special place and a special city. Stickers on poles and walls don't belong here," said Moyer, the so-called "Mother of Greenscape" who previously pushed for the flower baskets downtown and a spring cleanup.

Not surprisingly, local merchants won't admit to being the source of the decals. And an unofficial survey of the stickers on walls and poles yesterday found that many are U.S. Postal Service address labels or of the "Hello, my name is ... " variety.

David Kneas, the owner of Oceans II Records on Main Street, said he gives out many promotional stickers but that he's only seen one or two of them around town. "I'm almost insulted," he said, joking.

Kneas did say he occasionally sees unsightly clumps of stickers around town. "I'd rather see something else," he said.

Others are more adamant. "Those things are everywhere, and they're an eyesore," said Rusty Romo, owner of Harry Browne's Restaurant on State Circle and president of the Annapolis Business Association. Romo said he's found stickers on his gutters, mailboxes, trash cans and even on his car.

City workers will scrape off the stickers, but the process often leaves long scratches, another no-no in image-conscious Annapolis. "It's not a totally satisfactory process," Moyer said.

Making the task even more odious is that the stickers come off easier during rainstorms, when they are soggy, said Margaret B. Martin, the city's director of public works. Workers have been good-natured about scraping in the drizzle but "that's not what we're supposed to be doing," Martin said.

Moyer is so aggravated she's even willing to remove stickers from private property. "We ought to go ahead and do it. By the time we tell people to do it and [negotiate] with them, well, that will take too much time," she said.

Martin is already shopping for an industrial steam cleaner, which should make sticker removal from buildings and underpasses easier, but she is worried that the machine's force might be too much for historic 200-year-old structures. "The bricks would disintegrate," she said.

Moyer said the city is considering installing video cameras or other surveillance to catch offenders, who are subject to a fine of up to $100. Police said they have issued few tickets.

But Moyer said the city needs to be careful not to provoke offenders. "We don't want to get in a war with the younger people who can say `Ha, we can put this up faster than you can take it down,' " she said.

Others aren't as restrained. Said Romo, who sometimes finds decals on his car windows: "I wish I could get my hands on the guys who put them on my car. I wouldn't be calling 911, I can tell you that."

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