Sign, sign, everywhere a sign: Post-election cleanup begins

November 10, 2009

By Warren Kagarise

Election Day is done, but the symbols remain: campaign signs planted by candidates and volunteers near busy intersections, along bustling streets and in front lawns from the Issaquah Highlands to Squak Mountain.

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Several campaign signs remained uncollected the evening of Nov. 6 on West Sunset Way, and were still there Nov. 9. By Greg Farrar

Candidates realize residents tolerate the signs during campaign season, but after Election Day, the placards become visual pollution.

A few candidates mobilized volunteers to yank signs from the ground before midnight Election Day. City Council candidate Nathan Perea started uprooting his signs Election Day afternoon. Councilman-elect Tola Marts left a victory party and gathered his signs in the election night chill.

Perea said he empathized with residents tired of the signs. The compact campaign ads sprouted en masse during the summer.

“I appreciate the clutter being gone as soon as possible,” he said.

Perea blanketed Issaquah with distinctive green-and-orange signs emblazoned with a pine tree logo. In the end, however, Perea said the signs had little effect. Marts won the Position 7 council contest by a landslide.

Marnie Maraldo, a successful school board candidate, said she understood why the signs must come down soon after Election Day.

“I do sympathize with the public who has had to look at them since April or May,” she said.

Maraldo bested Wright Noel in the race for the school board Director District No. 2 seat.

The candidates’ cleanup effort means less work for city Code Compliance Officer Michele Forkner, who keeps a careful watch on campaign signs in the months before Election Day. Forkner did not receive any complaints from residents about the signs. Just after the election, she said she hoped candidates and volunteers had cleaned up after themselves.

Besides City Council candidates, contenders for county executive and assessor posts, and even Sammamish City Council hopefuls, planted signs around Issaquah. Hotspots included the cluttered intersections at either end of Northwest Gilman Boulevard: Front Street North and state Route 900.

Forkner said volunteers or residents usually pluck signs for out-of-town candidates after the election wraps.

Although candidates would doubtless relish the opportunity to turn the Northwest Gilman Boulevard median into a thicket of campaign signs, city code prohibits signs there.

The state Department of Transportation also prohibits signs on state-owned rights of way.

City rules call for campaign signs to be removed within a week of the election. Forkner begins rounding up rogue signs after the deadline passes.

“I do not touch those signs until the eighth day,” she said.

Forkner seldom fines candidates whose signs linger too long after Election Day. Instead, she gathers leftover signs, and collects wooden stakes for future candidates and people who need the poles for signs to announce garage sales and other events. The signs themselves head to the landfill.

“Signs don’t talk back; they just lay there or stick in the ground,” Forkner said.

The medium is expensive. Perea dropped $1,095 on campaign signs; Marts spent $683. Maraldo — who planted signs across the school district, from Newcastle to Sammamish — paid $1,774 for signs.

Marts and campaign volunteers sprinkled 200 signs around Issaquah.

“I wound up putting out the right number of signs,” Marts said.

After the signs were deployed, candidates found ways to augment the placards to deliver more information to voters.

City Council President Maureen McCarry affixed sheets touting her endorsements to her campaign signs as she worked to defeat challenger Joan Probala in the Position 5 contest. McCarry won the race by a wide margin.

Marts said where candidates placed signs — and how many signs candidates placed in proximity to opponents’ signs — was the most antagonistic act in the otherwise cordial campaign.

“The sign wars were more aggressive than the forum wars were,” Marts said.

Triumphant candidates said leftover signs would be stowed in garages until the next election. Maraldo and Marts looked toward 2013, when candidates elected last week will face voters again.

Maraldo said the designer of her blue-and-white campaign signs said a simple sticker could be added to change the message from elect to re-elect.

Marts said reusing his signs — adorned with a mountain backdrop and a salmon silhouette — would be a money-saver when he runs for a second term.

“I plan on using those signs for my re-election campaign in four years,” he said.

Warren Kagarise: 392-6434, ext. 234, or wkagarise@isspress.com. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.

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