When it comes to tacky signs and billboards, each of us probably has a favorite example somewhere around town. We've always thought, for example, that Rockville Pike flaunts an unusually grotesque collection of roadside lights and words. But today we are prepared to award first prize for sheer godawfulness conveyed by a single billboard to the large sign sticking up in front of the District Building at 14th and E Streets NW.

Against a bright green backdrop, the message reads, "Keep Off the Gas." We are assuming, for the purposes of this award, that this is intended to be a pun having to do with fuel conservation (get it?), and not the result of a typographical error. At any rate, that's all it says, except for an explanation that this message is "a public service of the Outdoor Advertising Agency" and the listing of two names of the ad's creators.

Now, we wouldn't pretend that the District Building is an architectural gem, mind you, but it has a certain elegance. Beyond that, like any seat of authority, it is supposed to have a certain dignity. And, frankly, we don't think the dignity of whatever is going on inside is much enhanced by putting a billboard out front - public service or not. There's been a long-standing ban on this sort of outdoor advertising in the District of Columbia. Is is too much ask that it be enforced in front of the mayor's office?