Roadside sign spinners exhale in relief as St. Pete Council passes relaxed sign ordinance

Dancing movements can remain for sign spinners

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - Jesse Johnston, 24, tilts and sways as he boogies away another afternoon along Fourth St. in St. Petersburg.

But his rhythm has a reason.  He's holding a sign for a business offering to buy gold.
"This job means food on my table," Johnston said.

Two weeks ago, sign spinners came to St. Pete city council to voice their concerns over a new proposed sign ordinance that could have spelled the end for many of these workers. Fears over increased numbers and driver distraction caused by the sign holders' movements were a few of the reasons their profession was being debated.

"That's the whole job. I mean if you stand here like this, you're not going to get any customers, nobody's going to come in.  You've got to move, you've got to do something," Johnston explained.

The council came back today with an amended version of the sign ordinance that permits the workers their freedom of expressive dance.  But the ordinance would require workers to stay in front of the business they are advertising and remain five feet from the road.

"If a guy falls, missteps, he falls in the street.  I have no problem with moving them back.  That, to me, makes sense," remarked councilman Bill Dudley.

"We can have a sign spinner outside every business; that's just something to think about," said Councilman Charlie Gerdes.

After discussion, the amended ordinance passed on first vote.  Whether you see them as a roadside attraction, or distraction, for now, the sign spinners will continue move to their individual beats.

"I like doing it because it's real easy, the pay is decent and I'm a really active person.  I love doing it.  As long as I can keep my job, keep doing it, I'll be happy," smiled Johnston.

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