Sign wavers could disappear from St. Petersburg streets

5:54 PM, Oct 18, 2012   |    comments
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St. Petersburg, Florida -- You've undoubtedly seen them at the side of the road. In fact, their whole job is to get your attention.

We're talking about sign-holders who dance around or spin their signs.

But the city of St. Petersburg says they're a nuisance, maybe even a traffic hazard, and on Thursday night they're considering an ordinance that would stop it.

The ordinance would prohibit those human billboards we see on the side of the road from doing anything but standing there. No dancing, no waving, no spinning. Nothing.

Supporters say it's a matter of public safety. But critics say the city has bigger problems to worry about.

In short though, if St. Pete city staffers have their way, Lady Liberty won't be boogying along 4th Street anymore. And folks like William Mingle, 44, won't be spinning or waving his "We buy gold" sign.

City staffers say the outdoor advertising tactics are just too distracting. A traffic hazard.

Some drivers we spoke with agree.

"Yeah, I'd probably pass an ordinance for some type of control on it," said one man stopping at the intersection near 4th Street and 23rd Avenue.

"You distract yourself for like four or five seconds. Is that dangerous? Could be dangerous, yeah," said another.

Mingle, a single father of two, says he's just trying to make an honest dollar. He's never seen any accidents caused by his work, he says. In fact, most folks just wave or blow their horn at him.

But the proposed ordinance would prohibit human billboards like Mingle from making any of those eye-catching movements designed to lure people into pawn shops, oil changes, puppy stores and more.

"I barely make a living on what I can do as it is... so yeah, it would hurt," he says.

Meanwhile, Chris Steinocher, CEO of the St. Pete Chamber of Commerce thinks it's a bad idea.

"There are bigger issues our community can be focused on," he says.

Critics of the proposed ordinance agree, saying St. Pete has bigger problems, like crime and budget shortfalls.

Steinocher calls the proposed ordinance a job killer at the wrong time. And with no real proof they're aware of, he says, that spinners actually cause accidents.

"There is no verification that it is any more of a distraction than anything else going on," said Steinocher.

And it's not just the spinners who might suffer. The ads can be a cheap, effective way of boosting the bottom line.

"We Buy Gold" recently told 10 News the spinners give them about a 30 percent boost at the stores where they do their thing.

That's why several businesses, business leaders, and William Mingle hope the city will reconsider during its first reading of the ordinance this evening.

"It's not what I want to be doing," Mingle says of his work, "but at least it's a job."

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