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Signs o’ the times

Post by News Tribune Staff on June 29, 2009 at 3:11 pm with No Comments »
June 29, 2009 3:11 pm

It’s campaign season again, which means campaign signs are springing up like dandelions.

City Council candidate John Miles (who’s running against Joe Lonergan and Beckie Summers Kirby) has been challenging one opponent’s sign etiquette.

He wrote in an e-mail to Kirby:

Dear Beckie:

Seven of your campaign signs are on the Oakes Street right-of-way between 58th and 62nd Streets. Five are at fence-lines for maximum confusion about whose property they abut. The other two are at the corner of 60th Street. Two were already lying on the ground last night.

According to city code, "signs placed in planting strips must have the permission for such placement of the abutting property owner." I spoke to several property owners who insisted that they had not authorized placement of the signs. One indicated that they would call Tacoma Cares this morning to complain.

Please remove the signs.

Before continuing on, I’ll note that the reason I’m blogging about this instead of writing is a story is that city officials told me today that Tacoma Cares had received no complaints.

She responded:

Dear John,

If this is going to be your campaign tactic I will deal with it.

Signs were place where the property owners instructed my son and his friends to place them. They are not illegal. If you wish to spend your time going to people homes and intimidating them into removing my signs, I can’t stop you. Someone in that household gave my son permission to put those signs there, or they would not be there. I do intend to conduct my campaign the same way campaigns have been done for decades in Tacoma. That includes asking people to display my campaign signs.

Thank you for making me aware of your thoughts on this matter.

Miles fired back:

Dear Beckie:

I’m sorry; I don’t think I made my intentions clear. I don’t want people to take down signs that they requested; I believe 100% in the rights of residents to post signs supporting candidates. I was doorbelling on this street, so I naturally asked about the signs to see if the residents supported your candidacy. I didn’t know that your signs were up until I walked down that street with my address list. Two residents that I spoke with live at 5807 & 5813 S Oakes. There was a sign placed in the right-of-way at the boundary of their homes. They insisted that they did not request the sign. Other residents with whom I spoke lived on one side or the other of signs. They said that they didn’t request them either. The woman at 5813 said that she would call Tacoma Cares today.

Perhaps making sure that the signs are clearly in front of particular houses and not on fence lines would clarify the situation. In terms of the way campaigns have been conducted in the past, you should be aware that a new ordinance governing political signs was passed by the city council in 2007. In terms of receiving permission, I think you should double-check on these. By the way, I have a meeting with Elizabeth Pauli on Thursday to discuss the application of the sign and handbill ordinances to our election. I intend to conduct my campaign in accordance with the law, and I am working with the legal department to clarify these issues so that we are all treated fairly.

Miles said in an e-mail to me today that signs were also being placed in DOT rights-of-way:

The signs were lined up along Pacific Avenue, which is a state highway, and the school district did not request them. The signs were gone soon

thereafter. However, additional campaign signs have appeared elsewhere in the DOT right-of-way along Pacific. According to the information that I was given as a candidate, DOT right-of-way is off-limits for signs. The DOT is supposed to clear them away, but I’m not sure how or when that occurs.

I had a brief conversation with city spokesman Rob McNair-Huff who said public works folks don’t generally remove campaign signs from rights-of-way unless they’re creating a hazard by blocking sight lines. This was apparently a change as of a year or two ago — I’m still trying to find stories on it in our archives.

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