On Jan. 26, Councilman Curtis Jones, D-4th, formally introduced a bill, No. 120017, that would legalize the bandit signs that have been littering the streets and creating blight in the neighborhoods. The bill was co-sponsored by Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell, D-3rd.
“I can’t figure it out,” said Councilman Brian O’Neill, R-10th. “We’re trying to do everything we can to get these signs down rather than trying to legalize them. They are blight, they lower the quality of light and they lower neighborhood values.”
The term “bandit signs” refers to signs posted on telephone and utility poles offering to buy houses, cars and provide various services. According to the Philadelphia City Code 10-200, these signs are illegal, and owners face fines from $75 up to $300 for each sign posted.
Unfortunately for the city, it has become increasingly difficult to keep track of who is posting the signs, making it a challenge to enforce the fines and allowing the perpetrators to get away with the cost-free advertising.
After years of seeing the signs around, residents are taking action against the issue. Some residents have taken it upon themselves to rid the Northeast of the unsightly signs.
In Fox Chase, Mike Bobby has taken charge of tearing down his neighborhood’s bandit signs.
“[With this bill] the city is just going to be overrun with these signs,” Bobby said. “It’s just going to be totally ugly. It’s just going to be blighted. People do not want these signs, nor do they want to do business with the people who post these signs.”
Bobby, a member of the Fox Chase Town Watch and the Fox Chase Town Homeowners Association, has taken down thousands of these signs since he first noticed the issue a couple of years ago. His work is known by residents all around the neighborhood, including O’Neill, whose district includes Fox Chase.
“The Town Watch and Homeowners Association meet together in Fox Chase and they are very high in their praise for what he’s been doing for quite a while on his own,” O’Neill said. “He goes out and takes these signs down constantly and as fast as he’s taking them down, these people are putting them back up.”
In Parkwood, Marge Philippi has been one of the most proactive civic association members. Known for her regular clean-ups of the small piece of Poquessing Park near her house, Philippi began tackling bandit signs when she started noticing them in her day-to-day routine. She uses various tools to help reach the higher signs, and updates her neighbors on her progress at the monthly Parkwood Civic Association meetings. Philippi could not be reached for comment, but O’Neill, who has worked closely with her on this issue, shared his opinion of her.
“She’s a dynamo,” O’Neill said. “I don’t know how she motors on and just keeps going because she’s been doing it for years. But as soon as she takes them down, they put them back up.”
Although Bobby and Philippi have committed themselves to tearing these signs down, they are not the only residents who do so.
“I rip them down,” said Greg Farrell, a resident of Burholme. “You can’t even see the speed limit signs or the red light signs, they have them all covered. Some of them are so high you can’t tear them down, though.”
For the higher-up signs, Bobby has taken to carrying around a step ladder and a tall scraper. But even with his efforts and the efforts of other residents, the signs go right back up like clockwork. Residents are worried that with the passing of Bill 120017, the problem will only worsen and any efforts to take down the sign will be in vain.
Still, O’Neill is optimistic that the bill will not advance past the beginning stages.
“So far the bill hasn’t even been requested for a hearing,” O’Neill said. “So I’m hoping it’s just one of those things that was a bad idea and never got to see the light of day.”