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The ultimate political yard sign: painting ‘Trump’ on your roof

It could also be a St. Petersburg code violation.
A home in St. Petersburg's Euclid St. Paul neighborhood has "Trump 2020" painted on the roof on Thursday, Oct. 22, 2020.
A home in St. Petersburg's Euclid St. Paul neighborhood has "Trump 2020" painted on the roof on Thursday, Oct. 22, 2020. [ CHRISTOPHER SPATA | Tampa Bay Times ]
Published Oct. 23, 2020|Updated Oct. 23, 2020

It’s probably someone’s version of the American dream.

A charming house on a quiet street in a safe neighborhood, where the neighbors know each others names. Shady canopy of oak trees, white picket fence, gigantic “Trump 2020” painted directly on the roof.

Two weeks before a presidential election, it’s no surprise we’ve reached peak candidate-yard-sign density in St. Petersburg.

But one home in the Euclid St. Paul’s neighborhood has cranked it up a notch with support for President Donald Trump displayed in bright white letters, 20 feet wide.

The neighborhood is in a precinct that voted overwhelmingly for Hillary Clinton in 2016, and is currently dominated by yard signs for Democratic candidate Joe Biden. One neighbor across the street displays a sign with a row of Black power fists in rainbow colors. Another has posted in their window that, “in this house, we believe, Black lives matter, women’s rights are human rights and science is real.”

But the Trump sign, lonely as it may be, is by far the largest on the block, and perhaps in the city.

“Oh really, I hadn’t noticed,” next door neighbor Maggie Hamilton joked sarcastically when a reporter informed her that the neighbors had painted the president’s name directly on their shingles.

Her husband, Kirk Hamilton, said he’d taken a picture as the sign was being painted. It only read “rump” at that point, but the photo still made a splash with his friends on Facebook.

The Hamiltons don’t have any political signs in their yard, but they feel strongly about their support of Biden. Yet none of the neighbors seemed terribly concerned about the roof sign.

Across the street, Al Knighton, a registered Republican who has lived on the block since 1979, was on his front patio dipping a brush into a can of white paint.

“It wasn’t me,” he said, holding his hands up in innocence. “Too straight a line." Also, he said, “I can’t stand Trump.”

A home in St. Petersburg's Euclid St. Paul's neighborhood has "Trump 2020" painted on the roof on Thursday, Oct. 22, 2020.
A home in St. Petersburg's Euclid St. Paul's neighborhood has "Trump 2020" painted on the roof on Thursday, Oct. 22, 2020. [ CHRISTOPHER SPATA | Tampa Bay Times ]

He shrugged. The sign is certainly an eyesore, he said, and he’s a little concerned how it will look to prospective buyers when he puts his house on the market soon, but whatever.

The Hamiltons both shrugged it off, too. They don’t understand Trump supporters, but the sign isn’t bothering them. They said they also were not bothered when a different neighbor used Christmas lights to spell out “Truck Frump” on their roof.

“It’s like, who cares?,” Maggie Hamilton said. “Why make enemies? We’ve never had any arguments or bad blood. We all get along."

And in a neighborhood like theirs, sometimes hyper-local concerns forge alliances that go beyond national politics.

Not long ago, there was a neighbor who called city code compliance on nearly every house on the block to report minor violations. The Hamiltons and others on the street think she was trying to boost the value of her own home before she sold it.

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The Hamiltons were reported for a violation involving the placement of some plants in their yard. The neighbors who painted “Trump” on their roof were reported for something involving the color of their door.

In defiance, Kirk Hamilton said, his neighbor in the Trump house went out and bought a case of beer and six different colors of bright paint. He spent the day painting every wall and piece of trim on the house a different hue.

“I went over there and helped him paint,” Kirk Hamilton said. “When it was over, he gave me what was left of the six cans of paint.”

Hamilton used it to create a Jackson Pollack-style painting the same colors as the house, and presented it to his neighbor as a gift.

The house in Euclid St. Paul's earlier in 2020, before "Trump" was painted on the roof.
The house in Euclid St. Paul's earlier in 2020, before "Trump" was painted on the roof. [ Google Maps ]

No one answered the door at the house with the Trump roof, but a life-size standee of the president peered out from a window. Neighbors say it has been there at least a year. They’re used to it.

The director of codes compliance assistance for St. Petersburg, James A. Corbett, said the Trump 2020 roof display could be a violation of the city’s sign code as long as it’s visible from the street. (He did not mention if being visible to passing airplanes holds any bearing.)

Residences are allowed up to five signs on private property, but they can’t be larger than 4 square feet, or taller than 6 feet. Corbett stressed that the city’s code is content neutral, so it doesn’t matter if a sign is political or not.

“I train my staff, don’t even read the sign,” Corbett said. “It’s not relevant.”

Corbett noted that once notified of a violation, a homeowner has 20 days to fix it before they may receive a fine of up to $500 per day. There are only 11 days left until the presidential election.

“It’s painted on,” Corbett said. “I don’t think it’s going anywhere soon.”

It may not be as permanent as it looks, though. Records show that the owners of the home recently pulled a permit to install a new roof.

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