Sign vigilantes strike again – and, again, it’s legal

Not far from the epicenter of our recent discussions about the relative signlessness of the Fauntleroy overpass, arose this complaint e-mailed to us last night by Andrea about anti-campaign-sign vigilantism on the roadside itself:

It seems we have an anti-campaign sign thief on the WS Bridge (near Kids on Logs). This week I’ve noticed various signs – both D & R candidates – gone missing. My Democratic friends and I are supporting Dan Satterberg for King County Prosecutor and have been posting these signs. Twice now, they’ve been removed. For example, today around 4:00 there were many signs for Dan and some other school board candidates. At 6:30, all were removed and in a pile. Isn’t this illegal? I know many people think they are annoying, but I thought we lived in a free country where we can express ourselves.

Actually, research reminds us, it’s not illegal. According to city sign regulations, under the heading “Yard Signs Prohibited on Public Property,” city law “prohibits placement of campaign signs on all public property, includin but not limited to: medians, boulevards, parks or public golf courses, greenbelts, rights of way to arterials or freeways, bridges or overpasses or planting strips that abut public property, such as schools, public buildings, parks or public golf courses.” However, the regulations also say, “yard signs may be placed on … planting strips abutting private property, with the consent of the property occupant.” Lots more interesting reading, involving all types of “temporary signs” (not just political), here.

18 Replies to "Sign vigilantes strike again - and, again, it's legal"

  • Dis October 22, 2007 (8:12 am)

    Let’s start a 24-hr. watch and unmask this ill-natured killjoy. We’d just take pictures and post somewhere…… And also…..Go Satterberg! I am a life long D and voting for him because he has the most and only experience for this nonpartisan position where experience counts. (back to regularly scheduled programming….)

  • djake October 22, 2007 (8:36 am)

    I for one applaud the sign bandit who is involved in the political sign heists. If not for them, a good share of those signs would still be standing long after the election. I appreciate the desire of candidates and those supporting them to see their names in print, however, I’d much more appreciate it on their own lawns.

  • Christopher Boffoli October 22, 2007 (8:42 am)

    I worked as a staffer on political campaigns and found it was unfortunately common for opposing campaigns to remove signs. And I can remember how violating it felt to have my candidate’s signs removed or defaced. But I’d be more up in arms about this if someone had removed the signs from private property. I’m personally not a fan of political signage on public property (especially after the losing campaigns don’t go back out and take them down when the election is over). Either way, the amount of good these expensive signs do for a campaign is debatable.

  • Eric October 22, 2007 (9:23 am)

    The sign “Bandit” lives across the street from the overpass entrance on the west side. It’s the new brown two story with a basement garage that’s on the sw corner of fauntleroy and andover. Look for the one with the surveillance camera above the front door and a video camera inside facing the front door. Clearly a person with all their facilties doing just fine. My wife a I went there this summer to put up a banner for a charity event that weekend and he came flying out of his house yelling that it was illegal and that he was going to call the cops. He stated that it was very ugly for him and his family to look out their windows and see signs on the bridge. So he rips them down and throws them in the bushes. Excellent idea. It’s okay to litter but not to post a sign that it’s your 10 year old daughters birthday and make her day. That’s not okay.

  • Dis October 22, 2007 (9:33 am)

    I was actually thinking about the personal signs “happy 18th Louie” and “Millie (heart) Frank” when I suggested the vigil.

  • Dow October 22, 2007 (10:30 am)

    As a candidate and elected official, I think that yard signs should be placed only with the permission of the landowner or renter – at least in city neighborhoods like ours. In that way the sign communicates the actual support of local people. It is a form of endorsement – a statement from one neighbor to others that the candidate/issue matters enough to warrant a sign in the yard (or associated planting strip).

    By contrast, the signs along the “Walking on Logs” stretch, and similar public rights-of-way, demonstrate only the willingness of a campaign to put up signs where no permission has been given. It is about name recognition alone. And it is one of those “tragedy-of-the-commons” issues: When one campaign does it, at least in a closely contested race, others follow in order to remain competitive. If the city can’t keep up with the mess, I (and I imagine others) would be glad to raise funds to help the West Seattle Chamber or another community organization run a truck around and clean up the stray signs – regardless of party or issue. Eventually campaigns would stop wasting money littering the public rights-of-way.

  • Christopher Boffoli October 22, 2007 (11:01 am)

    Dis: Do you really think it is some vigilante resident as opposed to just some City workers?

  • flipjack October 22, 2007 (11:52 am)

    Uh….well, seeing someones name on a sign does not make me want to vote for them, I don’t care where it’s posted.

  • Jan October 22, 2007 (11:56 am)

    I’ve been wondering about those signs.Everytime I drive up that Fauntleroy exit, I see those signs about every 2 feet (talk about excess), and always thought that they were illegally placed. I’m not against political signs like this as long as whoever is placing them has PERMISSION. Otherwise, they become an eyesore, they don’t get removed when the election is over, or we have a wind and rain storm and the disintigrate or blow away. Support your candidates all you want…just do it in a conscientious way.

  • grr October 22, 2007 (11:59 am)

    +1 in complete agreement with FlipJack. I liken the ‘candidate signs’ to the ‘big blow up gorilla’ at a car lot. Pretty damn sure I ain’t gonna vote for or buy a car from either.

    and I miss the ‘happy 10th bday Katie’ signs on the overpass. I think they add charm to WS.

  • ivan October 22, 2007 (12:23 pm)

    King County Prosecutor is a partisan position, Dis, and Satterberg is a partisan Republican.

    Any fool can look at the ballot and see the R next to his name. Maybe you missed it.

  • Dis October 22, 2007 (1:53 pm)

    No I didn’t miss it IVAN. If you are OK about leaving the management of the king co prosecutor’s office in the hands of someone with minimal experience, you are a greater fool than I.

  • villagegreen October 22, 2007 (1:56 pm)

    Having only lived in WS for about 5 years, I’m wondering about the history of the ‘happy 10th bday Katie’ signs on the overpass. Is this a fairly recent development or have people been posting greetings on the overpass for many years?

    I always thought the business advertisements and political banners were somewhat crass – made my decision never to eat at Garlic Jim’s as soon as they posted their banner on the overpass – but the personal congrats/greetings seem like a unique entrance to WS (if a bit tacky at times).

  • Jan October 22, 2007 (2:02 pm)

    villagegreen…I have lived in WS for over 32 years. The birthday greetings, etc. are not a new thing…they’ve been there since I can remember…a shame that one person doesn’t like looking at it. Reminds me of the story about the guy who said…doc, it hurts when I do this…doc says, then stop doing that. This man who doesn’t like the signs can look in the other direction and probably have a great view. I realize that the signs are technically illegal, but perhaps someone needs to catch this man in the act of littering, and slap a big fine on him. I find the litter way uglier than the signs….just one humble opinion…:)

  • ivan October 22, 2007 (2:33 pm)

    Prosecutor is a partisan position DIS. Satterberg is a partisan Republican DIS. Vote for him if you think he’s better, that’s your choice, but don’t tell us he is nonpartisan. He isn’t.

  • The Velvet Bulldog October 22, 2007 (5:54 pm)

    A nod to Dow Constantine for offering his reasoned input. Good to know that our officials are following (and participating in) the community discussions!

  • David October 22, 2007 (8:27 pm)

    I saw a few people picking up the signs. It was in the middle of the day and looked like a city employees and a city truck. Maybe there’s no vigilante, just civil servants doing their civic duty.

  • JE October 23, 2007 (5:55 pm)

    I like that idea, Dow–discouraging everybody from doing it, equally.
    I’ve put up campaign signs on public property myself, but not comfortably–talked myself into it because the opposition had their signs out, and I’ve heard people judge the strength of a cause or candidate by how many signs were out. Think of the money and effort we could put to work more usefully!

Sorry, comment time is over.