Giant Crist signs will come down

Tampa and St. Petersburg officials said the banners were illegal.

Published October 28, 2006

The giant face of Charlie Crist will no longer grace the skylines of Tampa and St. Petersburg.

After officials in both cities said the big banners draped on the sides of three buildings were illegal, Crist’s campaign asked the Florida Republican Party “in an abundance of caution” to remove them, Crist’s spokeswoman Vivian Myrtetus said Friday.

Only a day earlier, Crist, the Republican candidate for governor, said he thought the signs were “good advertising” and that they should stay up.

All week, the GOP maintained that the signs were temporary and not restricted by Tampa ordinances if they came down in 30 days. Tampa officials said the banners, paid for and placed by the state party, were illegal when they went up, and the law gave offenders 30 days to comply.

Friday, Florida Republican Party spokesman Jeff Sadosky said the party still thinks the signs are legal.
“It’s still our contention that as temporary signs, they comply with the code,” Sadosky said. “But we will comply with the request.”
The sign on St. Petersburg’s Grady Pridgen industrial complex at 2003 Gandy Blvd. was removed Friday, said Tom Edwards, the city’s assistant director of code enforcement.

The city cited the building’s owner with a code violation Thursday and will continue to monitor the building for the next few days to make sure the banner doesn’t emerge again.

“But for all practical purposes,” Edwards said, “it will close out the case.”

Late Friday afternoon, the signs on downtown Tampa’s Franklin Exchange and M&I Bank Plaza buildings still remained.
The intent of the signs was to catch the attention of voters. It definitely caught Colby Kaluck’s attention.

“They’re atrociously gaudy, unlawful and hypocritical for the attorney general,” said Kaluck, who works downtown. “And I’m a Republican.”

Kaluck is still not sure whether he’ll vote for Crist, but he said he thinks the sign stunt will be detrimental to the campaign.

When asked, GOP spokesman Sadosky denied that negative publicity was a factor in removing the signs. But Jeff Garcia, a Democratic political consultant in Miami, said all the press probably drove the decision.

“All publicity is only good publicity if nobody knows who you are,” Garcia said. “And everybody knows who Charlie Crist is.”

But Garcia doesn’t think the dustup — which was contained mostly within the bay area — will help or hurt Crist’s campaign.

“Statewide, there’s probably about 300 people who are familiar with this story, and I’m probably overestimating,” Garcia said jokingly.
“In the grand scheme of their voter contact reach, it’s pretty minimal.”It was especially minimal for Joe Latta as he walked down Franklin Avenue, past Crist’s huge face.

“Oh, I didn’t even know it was there,” Latta said, when asked his opinion of the sign. He said he has studied up on the campaign issues, and a big banner wouldn’t influence him either way.

Then, who will he vote for?

Latta pointed up at Crist’s beaming face, and kept walking.

Times staff writers Kevin Graham, Sue Carlton, Steve Bousquet and John Martin contributed to this report. Alexandra Zayas can be reached at (813) 226-3354 or azayas@sptimes.com.