Metro Buzz: Whitney’s campaign signs cause a stir _lowres

Advocate staff photo by BILL FEIG -- Traffic moves by Lenar Whitney's yard signs which are a violation of the city code due to their huge size. This sign is at the corner of Broussard Avenue and Perkins Road near City Park.

A life-size cutout of congressional hopeful Lenar Whitney greets unassuming Baton Rouge drivers at the intersection of Perkins Road and East Broussard Street in the Garden District. One of many 32-square-foot signs of her erected around the city, it shows Whitney dressed in a black pantsuit, arms crossed, flashing a smile at passersby.

The signs are more than conversation starters. They violate the city’s unified development code and are four times larger than the 8-square-foot size cap for residential areas.

City-parish government officials also have found that Whitney did not have the proper permit for her signs, but her campaign brushes off any criticism.

“The city shouldn’t be able to regulate what people do on their own private property,” said Chris Comeaux, Whitney’s campaign spokesman.

Comeaux said they obtained a permit shortly after a representative from Public Works contacted them, though he does not believe they should need one. He also said having a size requirement for signs is “clearly a First Amendment violation.”

Whitney’s campaign is not the only one utilizing oversized placards in the hopes of catching voters’ attention. Large signs for other Republican congressional hopefuls — including Dan Claitor, Paul Dietzel and Garret Graves — are on display across the district’s residential areas. They measure 18 square feet, which is the city’s size cap for what is allowed in commercial zones.

Carey Chauvin, assistant public works director of maintenance, said his inspectors look for violations when they drive around, but the majority of action is complaint-driven. Their main concern is not size but signs being in the right-of-way, which affects maintenance and motorist safety.

For now, Whitney will continue beaming down at passersby.

“Putting up 10 more in (East Baton Rouge) today!” Comeaux said in a text message to an Advocate reporter who inquired about Whitney’s campaign signs. He included a photo of two volunteers drilling wooden stakes into one of the 32-square-foot signs, propping it up even higher.

Group backs juvenile court judge candidates

A group of Baton Rouge business leaders is looking to help unseat the parish’s two longtime juvenile court judges.

FuturePac, a political action committee supported by the Baton Rouge Area Chamber, announced this week its endorsement of Gail Grover and Adam Haney in the parish’s upcoming juvenile court judge elections.

Grover, a former prosecutor who now works as the assistant chief administrative officer to Mayor-President Kip Holden, is challenging Juvenile Court Judge Pamela Taylor Johnson for the Section 2B bench. Johnson, who was first elected in 1994, defeated Grover in 2008.

Haney, a prosecutor with the District Attorney’s Office, is challenging Juvenile Court Judge Kathleen Stewart Richey for the Section 1A bench. Richey was first elected in 1990, and Haney has never run for public office.

Dedrick Moore, a Baton Rouge lawyer, also entered the Section 1A race against Richey and Haney.

As of Sept. 30, FuturePac had about $115,000 on hand to spend on a variety of races, according to a campaign finance report. The PAC says it supports candidates who promote economic development in the capital region.

Compiled by Andrea Gallo and Ben Wallace