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Mayoral Fight Plays Out On Boston's Lawns And Fences03:27
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Stephen Brennan started a sign war on his street in Roslindale when he put up this campaign sign for mayoral candidate Michael Flaherty. (Andrea Shea/WBUR)
Stephen Brennan started a sign war on his street in Roslindale when he put up this campaign sign for mayoral candidate Michael Flaherty. (Andrea Shea/WBUR)

It seems "sign envy" is playing out around town to varying degrees in Roslindale, a neighborhood that abuts Jamaica Plain, Hyde Park and West Roxbury. It's busy, urban streets are populated by immigrants; students; young, first-time homebuyers and life-long residents, such as 45-year-old Stephen Brennan.

"Most of us have been here, like our families, more than 100 years," Brennan says, pointing down the street. "Pat, this woman over here, her daughters own another house further down the street."

Looking down Durnell Street, there are a bunch of small, green and white signs supporting incumbent Mayor Thomas Menino. But Brennan is going against the tide here with a huge sign for the other candidate, Michael Flaherty.

Alix Cantave isn't holding Brennan's Flaherty sign against his neighbor. "I think it’s good for the city," Cantave says of the abundance of campaign signs. (Andrea Shea/WBUR)
Alix Cantave isn't holding Brennan's Flaherty sign against his neighbor. "I think it’s good for the city," Cantave says of the abundance of campaign signs. (Andrea Shea/WBUR)

The sign is 4-by-8 feet and it's the one with a big face shot of Menino on the left, under the word "good," next to a full-shot of Flaherty standing beneath the word "better."

Brennan says he put the sign up a few weeks ago, and thought for sure he was going to find a fist through it the next day. "But we didn't," he says. "Somebody did punch a bunch of holes in the Menino part of it, that's easiest to reach from the sidewalk, though."

Brennan's mini-billboard isn't the only sign on this property. To the left side of the house there's a smaller Flaherty sign. It's facing the neighbor's driveway, not the street — for a reason, according to Brennan. "We put that one up because of their Menino sign," he admits.

Brennan's neighbors, the Cantave family, have a medium-sized Menino sign. Alix Cantave, 50, acknowledges the "dueling signs," but denies any sort of serious battle with his neighbors.

Around the corner, two big Flaherty signs hang on Frances DeNapoli’s fence — though DeNapoli says they are a favor to a friend and don't necessarily mean he will vote for the candidate. (Andrea Shea/WBUR)
Around the corner, two big Flaherty signs hang on Frances DeNapoli’s fence — though DeNapoli says they are a favor to a friend and don't necessarily mean he will vote for the candidate. (Andrea Shea/WBUR)

"No, no, these are good guys, I hang out with them," Cantave says, laughing. "No problem at all." But, he allows, "I mean, I think he has a much bigger sign than I have!"

That said, Cantave isn't suffering from a case of "sign envy." Instead, he calls it "healthy competition."

"I think it's good for the city," Cantave says. "I think it's good because when someone is in office for a long time you get to be a little complacent after awhile. So I think it makes a statement in terms of civic engagement and just reminding people that there's an election going on."

Down the street and around the corner, two big Flaherty signs hang on Frances DeNapoli's fence. But the 93-year-old isn't taking part in any kind of "sign war." He said the banners are a favor for a friend who's a local firefighter.

"He asked me if he could put a sign on my property," DeNapoli explains. "I told him go ahead. It don't mean I have to vote for him."

And while DeNapoli and his neighbors have different opinions about Flaherty and Menino, there is one thing they do agree on: When the mayoral election is over, they say, the campaigns should come back to Roslindale to take the signs down.

This program aired on October 13, 2009.

Andrea Shea Twitter Senior Arts Reporter
Andrea Shea is WBUR's arts reporter.

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