Earlier this week, I took a slightly different route from my home in Boone County to downtown: Zionsville Road to 86th to 465 to 65 to West Street.
First, this route should be noted for its Mexican joints. From my car, I probably could have spat on 13 different places to get a burrito, including three Taco Bells, two Qdobas, and a handful of much more authentic options. I urge Eric Holcomb to establish the Indiana Burrito Trail in first act as Lieutenant Governor.
Second, I noticed some conflicting messages in the signage.
Indianapolis Welcomes You, Mayor Joe Hogsett
Welcome to Downtown Indianapolis, Mayor Greg Ballard
Welcome to my house, Flo Rida
Now, my job here is to explain Indiana, but this doesn’t take much explaining. You know the real mayor is Joe Hogsett, but we’re in this weird in-between time when mayors all over the state have taken office, but may or may not have updated all the signage. So it begs the question: why do mayors put their names on signs anyway? And should they even bother?
Based on my extensive research (Googling “first mayor to put his name on a sign” and clicking through three pages of results), it’s unknown when this trend started. But it certainly isn’t new. For decades, mayors have been putting their names on signs welcoming folks into their city, or into their downtown, or into their hearts.
I think its a carryover from campaign yard signs. Any good strategist will tell you that yard signs are a waste of time and money. Any good politician will tell you you need yard signs. They like seeing their name as they drive by, and who can blame them?
So when a person goes from candidate to officeholder, there is a desire to see their own name, again and again. You might argue that this practice helps boost name ID and remind voters who is in charge, but I’d point that if that were the case, we’re picking terrible places to put these signs.
The Hogsett sign above, for example, is at the city limits coming out of Zionsville. How many voters in the Indy mayoral elections drive regularly from another town?
Governors put their names on interstate signs as you leave one state and enter another. But does a sign on I-74 that says “Welcome to Indiana, Governor Mike Pence” make people coming over from Illinois say, “Wow! I should move here and vote for that man!”
I’m guessing Team Hogsett hasn’t replaced the Downtown sign yet because it’s either more expensive or they just haven’t gotten around to it. The thing is, that’s probably the one that matters more. People who live in the city might actually see that one.
In addition to the lack of utility, plastering your name on everything can cause a host of problems when you leave office.
Akron, Ohio, is on their fourth mayor since May 31, and the signs have changed each time. After one mayor resigned, the council president took over and they put his name on all the signs. One week later, he resigned and a new mayor stepped in. The fourth was elected in November.
Their signs should be made with dry erase markers.
In Syracuse, New York, city crews changed 27 signs when Stephanie A. Miner took office. The problem? The signs were spelled wrong. You might call it a “Minor mistake”. #pun
It’s a silly tradition that ought to be trashed. There is no benefit. There’s definitely a cost (several thousand dollars in signs and man hours isn’t a lot, but come on). And if you really want your name on something, it should be on something great in your city.
Welcome to the Burrito Trail, Mayor Joe Hogsett.