Signing off: Garage sales face sign rules

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Our garage has become a crowded place.

It's filled with white trash bags stuffed full of used toys, clothes and other items we freed from Bailey's bedroom.

We plan to sell them at a garage sale later this year. But, of course, we must be careful not to erect a yard-sale sign that will make us sign criminals.

The Cape Girardeau City Council has passed a measure outlawing all sorts of signs, including those ubiquitous garage-sale signs along city rights of way.

It's OK to have a traffic jam along a residential street during a garage sale. But erecting a sign near the street advertising such free enterprise is illegal and could put you in danger of being visited by the sign police.

Of course, politicians needn't worry. After all, they have constitutional rights of free speech to junk up our neighborhoods with signs.

But unfortunately for us, garages weren't around when our Founding Fathers drafted the constitution.

Ben Franklin would have loved garage sales. He would have seen it as a chance to get a bargain or at the very least a used kite to experiment with in a lightning storm.

Some Cape Girardeau residents worry that they'll have a harder time attracting customers if they can't erect a few garage-sale signs at key intersections, but I'm not ready to abandon hope.

Some people have suggested incorporating garage-sale advertising with political advertising. This offers a perfect marriage of free political speech and free enterprise.

The only drawback is that most people I know already are tired of all the political signs. They drive right by them without so much as a glance.

You also risk alienating some potential shoppers by siding with one candidate or another.

Personally, I think it would be far better to announce your garage sale at a city council meeting. The council reserves a few minutes for the public to address items that aren't on the agenda.

The advantage of such publicity is that the meetings are broadcast on cable television.

If none of that works, you can always listen to the police scanner. No doubt, police will be patrolling our neighborhoods to protect us from the dangers of garage-sale signs.

For some, garage sales are a passion.

For me, it's a chance to clean house. I don't want a permanently crowded garage. And I don't want to rent a billboard to advertise a garage sale either.

But don't get too excited over our junk just yet. Joni and I are just in the planning stages of holding a garage sale. We're not on a fast track.

Besides, we're hoping for some sign that the city council will loosen its restrictions.

If not, we just may have to turn to NASCAR. It would be a chance for NASCAR to reach out to all those bargain hunters by plastering garage-sale signs all over the race cars.

The possibilities could make one dizzy.

Mark Bliss is a staff writer for the Southeast Missourian.

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