City chomping down on gum vandals
Charleston officials are looking to stick it to gum-chewing visitors who plaster their gnawed wads on a trio of utility poles at an entrance to the famed City Market.
Hernan Pena, the city's traffic and transportation director, said the practice is vile, destructive and unwelcome. He has asked Charleston police to keep a close eye on the poles and to ticket gum-stickers. Another possibility is installing video surveillance cameras to catch the bubble gum-smacking perpetrators on tape, he said.
"We can't give in to this," Pena said. "Vandalism is what it is."
Anyone caught depositing gum on the poles will be cited for defacing public or private property, said Charles Francis, police public information officer. If convicted, offenders face a maximum $500 fine and/or 30 days in jail.
The "gum poles," as they are known, have endured for years at the intersection of East Bay and Market streets, surviving any number of attempts to scrape, blast and pry the lumpy clumps from the timber. Every time the poles are cleaned, passersby simply slap on more wads to form a new rainbow-colored pastiche of goo.
Some people see the poles as pop art. In fact, similar gum-encrusted displays have become tourist attractions in Seattle and other cities. But Pena sees nothing redeeming about the gum poles, and there is little chance the sticky shafts will take their place alongside The Battery, Rainbow Row or other must-see destinations in the Holy City.
Pena said the city needs to safeguard the poles, whether through enforcement or installing protective covers to shield the lumber from tacky deposits. As it is, city crews spend an inordinate amount of time and effort grinding and removing the petrified wads, which are extremely hardy and difficult to budge, he said.
"This is not a joke to us. It's serious business," Pena said. "People are damaging public property."