SIGNS, FINES, AND WHINES

BRIGHT IDEAS BILL SIGNS calls it “guerrilla marketing.” For five years now, Dallas officials have been trying to prove that Signs has been attaching signs to telephone poles around town, touting his small company, Swedish Auto Inc. The signs, which say simply “Volvo-BMW Service 241-1911,” repeatedly got Signs in trouble with the city’s code enforcement officials, who’ve dragged him to court several times in attempts to fine him for breaking an anti-littering statute. Signs doesn’t deny making the signs, just “affixing” them, which the city code forbids.

Signs, who says he can’t afford traditional advertising, knew his campaign was making plenty of enemies with the city. He once subpoenaed former City Manager RICHARD KNIGHT JR. and says that at one proceeding, a city employee testified about the exact day and time that he allegedly saw Signs hammer a notice to a pole. Luckily, Signs had a passport to prove he’d been sunning in the Bahamas at the alleged moment. “They were willing to commit perjury just so they could convict me on a misdemeanor,” he says incredulously.

About three years ago, the phrase “Support Mayor Strauss” began appearing on the bottom of Signs’s signs, complete with her office phone number (Signs says he knows how the addenda got there, but he’s not saying for the record.) He doesn’t know why, but he hasn’t been seriously bothered by the city since the add-ons.

Well, not much. There was that call from Mayor ANNETTE STRAUSS herself, kindly requesting that Signs not use her name anymore (although she stresses that she did thank him for his support). So, no more “Support Strauss” stuff. But Signs says he’s not giving up the guerrilla tactics. A professional pilot, Signs says he’s thought about skywriting and banner towing. “I’ve been shopping for a biplane.”

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