There were barely any clouds in the sky on Election Day in College Station, so voters would have clearly seen a plane pulling a banner urging the now-failed recall of the city's mayor.
According to the plane's pilot and witnesses to its take-offs and landings at Coulter Airfield in Bryan, the two-seater aircraft towing a banner estimated at 100 feet long lifted off for two separate three-hour flights on Saturday, the last one wrapping up about 4:00 p.m.
The banner read, "LAST CHANCE -- RECALL MAYOR BERRY -- VOTE TODAY".
College Station Mayor Nancy Berry, along with Councilmembers Katy-Marie Lyles and Dave Ruesink, easily avoided recall Saturday night by nearly three-to-one vote margins. Citizens against those representatives' votes for annexation studies of the community of Wellborn provided enough signatures to put the three on the ballot.
The plane's pilot said he did not know who had paid for the banner. He said he works for National Sky Ads out of Houston, which provides aerial advertising -- including skywriting -- across the nation.
According to Texas Election Code, "political advertising" must state or read that it is such, as well as display the name of the person or group who paid for the ad or "the candidate or specific-purpose committee supporting the candidate, if the political advertising is authorized by the candidate." Section 255.001 of the code does not apply to event tickets or invitations; campaign buttons, pins, hats, or similar materials; or circulars or fliers costing less than $500.
National Sky Ads does not post specific costs on its website, but instead asks for contact information so they can call or e-mail with pricing. One question asked by the contact form on the site is the interested party's advertising budget. The minimum option selectable is $395.
A violation of the Texas Election Code's section on required disclosure on political advertising could earn an offending party up to a $4,000 fine.
A call Saturday night to National Sky Ads did not yield the name of the banner's purchaser.
The Save Wellborn political action group, which had been pushing for the recall, lists no plane-related expenditures on any of its three campaign finance reports on the City of College Station's website.
Area residents who saw the plane and commented to News 3 via its social media pages said they had trouble determining what the banner even said.
"Saw it flying over Aggie Softball. But couldn't see it well enough to see if it said it was a paid ad.," wrote Chris Shepperd in response to this reporter's tweets on the topic.
Tiffany Snider, a follower of KBTX Media's Facebook page, wrote, "saw a plane w a banner, could not read it. waste of money for sure!"
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