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The city of Hemet is cracking down on sign spinners

A sign spinner in North Bethesda, Maryland, tosses a sign next to a main road to grab motorists' attention.
A sign spinner in North Bethesda, Maryland, tosses a sign next to a main road to grab motorists' attention.
Michael Hyman/Flickr/Creative Commons

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In the city of Hemet, about an hour west of Palm Springs, city officials have a message for those sign spinners that line the road: It's time to go.

You may have seen these spinners where you are, too, standing or dancing on the sidewalk and holding up giant arrows pointing you to a nearby business.

Maybe they're dressed up as the Statue of Liberty, tossing a sign up into the air or spinning it like a helicopter.

Hemet city officials say they are a nuisance.

Mayor Larry Smith says it sometimes gets out of hand.

"On any given Saturday afternoon, you can find one off the main drag, which I would call Florida Avenue and Sanderson," he says. "Each corner would be occupied by one, two or sometimes three individuals either twirling signs or spinning signs or pointing people in various directions."

Members of the city council say they're a visual distraction, and Smith's main worry is that they're a safety hazard, too.

"They seemingly were getting themselves closer and closer and closer to the traffic lanes. Spinning these signs overhead. Sometimes they lose control," says Smith. "I admire their skill but my personal concern is one of these signs flip out, catching a car. Or, worse yet, a sign twirler stepping out, and those pedestrian-vehicle incidents don't turn out very well."

As of last week, the city has said it will enforce an ordinance that prohibits handheld signs along the road, with fines ranging from $50 to $250.

It's actually not a new law — it was first passed in 2005.

However in 2009 when the economy tanked, the city relaxed the restriction because local businesses needed whatever help they could get.

Since officials say the city's economy is better, they'll be enforcing the law once again.

Some businesses owners aren't happy.

"My best advertising is definitely my sign waver on the corner," says Patty Castro, who owns BZ Beez Tax Services right on Florida Avenue. "It just brings a lot of attention. I'm back in the corner, so it's like, how are we supposed to get noticed if we don't have somebody on the corner?"

She hires a person to stand outside in a bumblebee outfit with a sign that points people to her storefront along with a phone number. 

Castro says most of her customers tell her they come in because of that sign waver, and that this ordinance would be a blow to her business.

She's considering flouting the law because she thinks it may be worth the fines to keep people coming in.

"It would be worth to pay the fine every day to have somebody out there. I don't know what I'm going to do, really, because it definitely will affect my business."

But, Mayor Larry Smith says the city doesn't want this law to be a burden, and they may have case-by-case exceptions for people like Patty Castro and BZ Beez.

Until then, those sign twirlers in Hemet are unfortunately, spun out.