Lee Swearingen, a local activist from Raleigh, submitted this to quite a large distribution listing of local media folks. I think he's had good luck within the city limits of Raleigh over the years with his one-man fight... but appears to be having trouble at the county level.
In Durham, the same it true... within the city the signs have really dropped in numbers (at least in N Durham... S Durham is a different story), while the country takes little action. In a recent "meet the commisioners" meeting, the issue was raised and quickly dismissed since the county "isn't into trash pickup". Could it be 'cause one of our commissioners is a lawyer for a local developer... or am I just widly speculating?
In any case, Lee's email is below for those that want to hear what he has to say, or have a good chuckle at his "use of language". But then... laugh if you like, he seems to be making a difference.
His technique relies strictly on inventory/reporting of signs, and strongly advocates NOT pulling them. I guess I differ, but then everyone's got to have their personal strategies...
Note: I wish the forum's posting support rich-text forms... so I could include Lee's formatting in this. As it is... I've got the "plain text" version here. I'm not going to go through and "hack in" the html formatting
Press Release 2/21/6
To: All Interested Media
From: Citizens Against Portable Signs on Right-Of-Ways
NC DOT Withholds Public Information?
CAPSOROW.ORG, a Cary based citizens group, continues to be snubbed by Governor Mike Easley and has once again gotten the North Carolina Department of Transportation to reveal its �True Colors� by their purposeful withholding of public information.
In an e-mail communication, dated 2/13/2006, George Lee Swearingen, the group�s founder and driving force, cautioned Ken Ray, one of the groups members, to get the below email response from Anne Walker, a NC DOT employee in writing and on official DOT letterhead.
She sent Ken this email response to his request for info:
During a roadside cleanup Adopt-A-Highway volunteers may collect signs located on the right-of-way of their adopted stretch and place them near the orange bags. DOT's county maintenance crew will collect the orange bags and the signs for proper handling.
Thanks for the question.
Ken sent her response to me - and I sent him this and copied NC DOT personnel:
I do not know who this Anne Walker is, but I would check further with Helen Landi and the DOT leadership.
Their previous position is contrary to the one they are telling you now. They previously maintained that the real estate directional signs are private property and anyone picking them up, short-of actual DOT personnel, could be held liable and prosecuted by the signs owners.
I would not do anything, if I were you, until I got their permission in writing on official DOT stationary, not an email response from an unknown entity.
In Virginia, an adopt-a-highway volunteer was prosecuted for doing exactly what she says you can do.
His name is Robert Lauderdale, his E-mail Address(es): firstname.lastname@example.org
I'm including him in this response in case he wants to contact you personally and tell you why you should be leary of this unofficial answer.
Ask yourself this Ken... Why are there so many signs on state maintained right-of-ways if volunteers could have removed them all along?
George Lee Swearingen
After my caution to Ken, George Kapetanakis sent this to Ken that same day and Cc�d: me:
Dear Mr. Ray:
My name is George Kapetanakis, the NCDOT Litter Programs Coordinator. Anne Walker is the State Adopt-a-Highway Coordinator. It appears everyone is giving good advice. I appreciate Lee asking you to confirm so there are no misunderstandings.
In regards to Anne Walker's comments, she is right � volunteers may pick up the signs while on a litter cleanup of their adopted section. Then the signs are left alongside the orange bags of trash in the same vicinity.
Picking up signs while on a litter cleanup is one thing. It's totally different to go out - pull up and remove signs from the property site just to be collecting signs. Lee is correct. It is not allowed.
George Kapetanakis, NCDOT Litter Programs Coordinator NCDOT, Office of Beautification Programs Transportation Building 1540 Mail Service Center Raleigh, NC 27611-5201 Phone: 919-715-3188 Email: email@example.com
After reading what George wrote, I sent George this on that same day 2/13/6:
Dear George Kapetanakis,
I read with great interest your response to Ken Ray.
If what you say is true - then I can't help wonder why the real-estate directionals and other illegally placed ad signs are the problems - that they are today.
According to you, adopt-a-highway volunteers are allowed to pick up these signs. How many of the AAH volunteers know that they can? If your answer is more than 50%, why are the illegally placed signs still in our state right-of-ways?
Ken suggested in a response to me that most of the illegal signs are put up on the weekends. Don't 90% of all AAH volunteers - work weekends?
I know for a fact, since DOT opened the new 64/264 bypass, as many as 50 illegally placed signs are visible on any given weekend. Around the Hodges exit, 8 are on permanent display 24/7/365. Is this because this section of DOT maintained highway has no volunteers? Or is it because no one from your organization has ever bothered to tell them they could pick the illegal signs up?
And what of the multitude of election signs soon to come? Can AAH volunteers pick them up as well?
I'm pretty sure I made myself clear years ago. The AAH program, you, Helen and the DOT leadership have a proven track record of unwillingness to enforce all of the DOT rules equally.
So I will continue to advise anyone interested - NOT to trust anything, any of you say, unless it is in OFFICIAL writing and with enough specificity to cover all LEGAL challenges.
Come to think about it, why don't you consider this an OFFICIAL WRITTEN REQUEST for:
a list of the names of all current AAH volunteers and/or organizations,
complete with email and/or phone number contact info,
in a usable form, that can be received by me on my computer,
so that I might conduct my own survey and awareness program.
George Lee Swearingen
When he didn�t respond with a reply for info, I sent this on 2/14/6:
How about it George!
It's been at least 24 hours. Are you finding it difficult to respond to straight forward questions these days.
Do you think - if you ignore questions like:
1. How many of the AAH volunteers know that they can pickup illegal signs?
2. If your answer is more than 50%, why are the illegally placed signs still in our state right-of-ways?
3. Don't 90% of all AAH volunteers - work weekends?
4. Around the Hodges exit on 64/264 bypass, 8 illegal signs in DOT right-of-ways are on permanent display 24/7/365. Is this because this section of DOT maintained highway has no volunteers?
5.Or is it because no one from your organization has ever bothered to tell them they could pick the illegal signs up?
6. And what of the multitude of illegally placed election signs soon to come?
7. Can AAH volunteers pick them up as well?
they will just fade away.
I realize the additional request for info will take time to compile, but don't you think you should address these questions now? After all, as a state employee - it is your duty to serve the public who pays your salary.
Did you or Helen or Lyndo ever think I'd ever let y'all off the hook for ignoring your responsibilities to the citizens and taxpayers of North Carolina?
I anxiously await your reply...
George Lee Swearingen
It has been a week since I requested some simple answers to some simple questions from a NC State employee and he and/or his bosses at NC DOT are intentionally preventing me from the �public information� I and every other taxpayer are entitled too. I willing to wait for the list of volunteers� info I requested, but I don�t think I should have to wait for simple answers.
If NC DOT won�t fully answer this states citizens request for information, than I like to see if they�ll answer yours (the media).
The time has come, once again; for this states media to get involved with the unresponsive attitudes found among this states public servants. With all the scandals and lawsuits directed against NC DOT personnel these days - are you (the media) going to let them get away with more malfeasance and irresponsible actions?
#1. "RE: Raleigh activist letter" In response to Reply # 0
That's an interesting position by the NCDOT person. Picking up a sign while on litter patrol is like picking up litter. From what he says, it sounds like it is not permitted to pick up litter unless you are on litter patrol. I can just see the roadside signs --