Undressed light poles. Naked medians. City Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke, hoping to see less on more in Baltimore, has introduced a bill to make it happen.
Her "Take It Off, Take it All Off" bill would double fines for illegal signs found on public property and encourage residents to take the signs down by offering community associations a share of the fines collected.
"We need an army of bounty hunters, basically, that know they're authorized to take them down," Clarke said. "It's small recompense for putting up with the litter, but at least there's hope of return."
It's the "Work from home" or "Lose weight fast" ilk of signs that Clarke's after. Campaign signs, too. Any mass-produced messages cluttering public space. ("We're not targeting `Cat lost'," Clarke said.)
With the bill, Clarke hopes that the city will not only get rid of the unsightly signs but also find a more effective way to punish the violators.
Last year about 1,500 complaints about signs came in to the city's 311 call center. According to the city, 30 citations were issued.
"Their collection rates on these signs has not been worth mentioning," Clarke said.
With the attempted crackdown on shady signs, Baltimore joins other communities, locally and around the country.
A couple of years ago, Howard County, for instance, sent a sign inspector out slapping orange "violation" stickers over the phone numbers or Internet addresses on illegal signs.
Baltimore County code enforcers collected about a thousand signs late last year and tried to persuade offending businesses to desist.
In North Carolina last fall, a daylong event in Gastonia called "Pole Patrol" united residents and city workers in pulling down illegal signs.
And in Texas, the Legislature is considering a bill that would make it easier to penalize makers of what they call "bandit signs."
City Councilman Robert W. Curran considers the signs such an irritant, such "visual pollution," that he roams streets in his district with a pad and pen. He'll stop to sketch little depictions of intersections, noting iffy signs affixed to the poles on each corner.
A week ago, at the intersection of Cold Spring Lane and The Alameda, he found "We buy houses" signs and ads for rap artist E-Z Money, Mo Buzz CDs and something or someone known as "Little Clayway."
"That's just not what these poles are for," Curran said.
But are illegal pole signs really that big a deal?
"In the whole scheme of things, no," Curran said. "But it really is a quality-of-life crime and can really get out of hand."
Community associations, which could make some money if the bill is approved, seem to like the concept.
Morrell Park Community Association President Carol McCoy said her neighbors already fight those signs and would probably be "very supportive" of an effort to crack down on them further. "They are inappropriate," she said. "They shouldn't be on our streets."
But in Hampden, Community Council President Allen Hicks had questions. What if people pull signs from legitimate places just to make a buck? Who would protect the community association if one of those businesses sued?
"It sounds great," Hicks said, "but the devil is in the details."
Curran said details like those would be worked out in the council's judiciary committee.
Over at the Signs of Excellence sign shop on Eastern Avenue, owner Paul Caplener wasn't quite as smitten with the legislation. He scolded city leaders for dwelling on "minutiae," saying they should focus on Baltimore's rising murder rate and drug problems.
"It's America. We're a capitalist system and people have to advertise," he said. "The city's got such a long list of problems and, to me, this is just stupid. ... There's so much more that the law could be taking care of."