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City should take action against sign scofflaws | LETTER TO THE EDITOR
To the editor:
Campaign season is upon us and that means a fresh crop of political signs.
I have no problem with candidates and campaigns posting these signs, but there are rules that they must follow and very often these rules are ignored. I am particularly concerned that signs are posted without concern for the interests of owners (often businesses) whose properties these signs are posted in front of. The signs may create the impression owners support a campaign that they don’t actually support. It also puts a burden on owners to remove and dispose of them.
What does the Bainbridge Island Municipal Code say about getting permission to post political signs? Under BIMC 15.08.095, it says “political signs may be posted within public right-of-way only if … permission to place the sign in the right-of-way has been obtained from the abutting property owner.” That is, they have to ask first.
FYI, the “public right-of-way” is the roadway and the area along either side of it (used for sidewalks, parking strips and such). Also, the Washington State Supreme Court (in Collier vs. the City of Tacoma) has affirmed that it is OK for cities to require permission from abutting property owners.
However, many candidates and campaigns seem to go by the philosophy that it is easier to get forgiveness than permission and post their signs without getting permission first.
During the 2012 campaign and the current campaign, I surveyed a number of property owners who had political signs posted in front of their properties and none of them had been asked for permission first. Some candidate and campaigns are unaware of this requirement, but others have been made aware of the it and continue to post signs without permission anyway.
The unfortunate thing here is that, at least so far in the current campaign season, the city is taking no action to enforce its rules. Through the SeeClickFix website, I have reported a number of instances of political signs posted without receiving permission of the abutting property owners (whom I have been in contact with). The code compliance official has acknowledged the reports, but has taken no action in two to three weeks.
It would be nice if the city would send the message that it would enforce its rules, if only to discourage people from feeling the need to take action themselves because nothing was getting done about these code violations.