Signs of controversy

"It happens during every campaign season. Just as political candidates start the requisite doorbelling, handshaking and public forum appearances, some of their campaign signs tend to disappear as quickly as they're planted. Often the signs can get scorched, other times they're just dug up and thrown aside in piles. Which is not to say opposing candidates, under the cloak of darkness, destroy their opponents' signs, or that volunteers belonging to the county's Democratic or Republican parties are to blame.Anyone could be the culprit, and the hard part is pinpointing who, or why.Unfortunately, this is an age-old problem, Kitsap County Sheriff Steve Boyer said this week. Boyer is currently following up on a tip from Poulsbo about an alleged sign vandal, and deputies are checking a license plate number of a vehicle seen near a vandalized campaign sign. Boyer said $250 fines can be leveled against culprits who tamper with signs of any kind, not just political signs.Every year in which a campaign is run, political signs are pulled up and vandalized, Boyer said. Sometimes, we hear about witnesses who see teenagers laughing and giggling as they pull up signs and sometimes others are to blame. Tempers can flare during political campaigns.Karl Duff, chairman of the Kitsap County Republican Party, is certainly upset about what he calls an unacceptable level of destroyed signs this campaign season. According to a Republican Party press release, he and the Republican Party committee of Kitsap decided last week to take action against sign vandals, just days after the primary election results rolled in.Duff said in a prepared statement that vandalism has occurred at the hands of pedestrian groups traveling on county roads, but recent events could also be pinned on members of the opposite political party. The Republican committee is reportedly offering a $100 reward to anyone with information leading to the arrest of anyone found vandalizing political signs legally placed within Kitsap County.Boyer said this week that Duff asked to meet with him to discuss the perennial sign-vandal problem, as well as the idea of offering a reward for answers. They met and the sheriff offered Duff some advice. While I said the committee's offer to give $100 to anyone with information leading to those who've vandalized signs in Kitsap County, I said it might be best to try a more positive approach, Boyer said. I suggested both the Republicans and Democrats in the county and their volunteers get together and pledge mutual respect for each other's property.Also in a prepared statement, Duff said he approached to no avail a leading representative of the Democratic Party Sept. 16 about the release of their own reward for answers.Although Duff couldn't be reached for comment on the matter Monday, calls to at least two of the county's Democratic committees revealed officials there hadn't been contacted by Duff.For one, Jim Sharp, chairman of the 23rd Legislative District Democrats said he wasn't contacted.This pretty much always happens, Sharp said. But I don't think volunteers with the Republicans or Democrats have had anything to do with these recent events.Sharp said volunteers belonging to the 23rd District committee are mostly elderly retirees, and couldn't imagine them pulling up signs in the middle of the night.His concern has been with how and where signs have been placed throughout the county. Sharp said the committee issues pamphlets to volunteers that detail laws regulating sign posting and size.He's seen signs belonging to the opposing party located on highway exit ramps in Silverdale, which is against state law, Sharp said. He noted, too, that signs larger than two square feet have been planted along county right of ways, which goes against county code, he said.I would agree to coming forward with a pledge if everyone agreed to post signs correctly and post signs of the right size, Sharp said, referring to Boyer's suggestion. "

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