At least that’s the impression I got this morning with Julie Cox-Kain when it came to the question of whether or not she agreed with VI Marketing’s Tim Berney that the yard signs placed along city streets and in city parks don’t hurt the community’s appearance. I asked this question several times over, and each time Cox-Kain, chief operating officer at the Oklahoma Department of Health, recited the message of their campaign, which, while it’s an answer, it’s an answer to a question I wasn’t asking. After making it clear she wasn’t answering my question, it became quite apparent that she’s not willing to say they do detract from community appearance.
The Department of Health is paying VI Marketing $350,000 in federal tax dollars in this campaign to urge people to do more to take better care of their health. Great message. We can all do to get in better health (and as some of you have pointed out in different ways, me included). But does the message justify breaking the law? Taxpayers are paying for illegal signs that they are then paying to have removed. Does that make sense?
And yes, that’s the top reason I’m writing about this. It’s not unusual to see these illegal signs in campaign seasons. I don’t know of anyone who says “Hey, I saw that sign for Fidel Castro (or pick any name), and because of it, I’m going to vote for him for Labor Commissioner (or pick any office).” But you do hear from plenty of people who think they’re road clutter and detract from community appearance. And that’s the reason that was cited by the city council in passing these laws and doing sign pick-up.
So why did I write about it this time? Well, again, it’s not my first time on this topic. And what makes this occasion unique The difference this time is it’s taxpayers who are paying to put out these signs (the health department with federal tax dollars), and it’s taxpayers paying to remove them (the city’s general fund). The other question I keep asking is, where does the inclination to break the law for a message campaign end? Posters pasted onto bridges? Graffiti?
Cox-Cain said she knew the campaign would include VI Marketing printing up 3,000 yard signs, but added it was not the health department’s intent to break any laws. And whereas Berney said the illegal signs would stay up through the duration of the campaign, Cox-Cain said this morning VI Marketing is being instructed to immediately remove the illegal signs (the ones along Broadway are gone; Councilwoman Meg Salyer had them removed).
Final note. I talked to Kristy Yager, spokeswoman for the City of Oklahoma City. She said that VI Marketing is on standby for more contracted work with the city’s water/wastewater utilities department, and that she does not see the stance of Tim Berney/VI Marketing in regard to violating the city’s ordinance would play into the firm getting further work from the city. The utilities department is overseen by the Oklahoma City Water Trust, which is chaired by Ward 4 Councilman Pete White. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.