Q: Why am I still looking at election yard signs and large, not-quite-billboard-sized signs for candidates for the Nov. 6 election? Who is responsible for removing the signs from public right of ways? In some jurisdictions, election campaigns need permits to display these signs, and a deposit is required. If the campaign removes signs after the election (usually five to seven days), they don't forfeit money. If not, the jurisdiction clears the signs and the campaign loses their money. What's the story in Collier?
— Susan McCampbell, North Naples
A: Although Florida Statute 106.1435 regarding political signs states that each candidate "shall make a good-faith effort to remove all of his or her political campaign advertisements within 30 days" after the election or candidacy ends, state law does not prevent local governments from imposing additional or more stringent requirements. Collier County Land Development Code requires all election signs erected with bulk temporary permits be removed within seven days after the event.
"Each sign not removed within the required time shall constitute a separate violation of this code. The permittee will be subject to issuance of a citation for each violation from the Collier County Code Enforcement Board," according to county code 5.04.06(B6c).
As for removal of signs in public rights of way, no political campaign signs are to be displayed on any state or county road right of way, pursuant to Florida Statute chapter 479.
"Nobody is supposed to have a sign in the right of way. If somebody's sign is in violation, they can be fined for violating that. If it's in the property owner's front lawn, it's up to them to remove it," said Tim Durham, Collier's chief deputy supervisor of elections.
For campaign sign violations, the county code enforcement department advises citizens to call the local office at 239-252-2440, or file a complaint online at http://apps2.colliergov.net/Portal/, noting the specific location of signs. An investigator will be sent out to take a look.
Although it goes without saying because of free speech considerations, state provisions "do not apply to political campaign advertisements placed on motor vehicles or to campaign messages designed to be worn by persons," according to Florida Statute. So, it's OK — legally, anyway — to still display campaign bumper stickers and to keep wearing election 2012 T-shirts.
Q: Can you tell us a little bit about those beautiful flowing lights at the entrance of Mercato? I'd like to purchase those somewhere.
— Elaine Fessler, Naples
A: You are admiring the shimmering effect of LED snowfall lights. The cascading light tubes strobe downward to simulate falling snow.
The lights on the oak trees on both sides of the U.S. 41 entrance to Mercato are from an expensive commercial line, but a similar effect can be replicated at home with other products. Various versions of the snowfall curtain or icicle tube lights are available for purchase online and at many local discount stores and retailers.
The lights at the North Naples development were installed this year by Whited Holiday Décor of Fort Myers. The company installed even bigger tube lights at Bell Tower Shops, a south Fort Myers shopping center also operated by Madison Marquette, said David Whited of Whited Holiday Décor.
Whited's company is a fourth-generation family business started by his late father, Russell, and has been doing holiday décor for more than 20 years and growing Christmas trees for 40 years, Whited said. The company installs holiday decorations at 80 different properties in Collier and Lee counties, including at Pelican Bay and the Ritz-Carlton locations.
"Twenty years ago, there wasn't a lot of decorating," Whited said. "Now, it's just everywhere."
With so many decorations and properties, the company has more than 30 people working around the clock this time of year.
"We've been decorating since September, and won't be done taking it down until February," Whited said.
If you are dazzled by Mercato's lights, wait until you see the massive Christmas tree that Whited will erect Dec. 3 and Dec. 4 to prepare for the development's tree-lighting ceremony at 6 p.m. Dec. 7. The nearly 26-foot-tall blue spruce from northern Michigan is about 18 feet wide and weighs more than 1,000 pounds, Whited said.
"It's the biggest one we've ever done," he said. "What's so big about it is its girth. It took us over an hour to take it off the truck, and we're using forklift trucks."
For a list of other local holiday events, go to naplesnews.com/christmas.
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"In the Know" is published Mondays and Wednesdays in the Naples Daily News. Find a complete archive of "In the Know" columns at naplesnews.com/intheknow.