By: Steve Trubilla
If you ask informed candidates when political signs can be put out, they will tell you not before the 10th of February.
Surprise, surprise; we have all seen them out all over the place for months now.
If you read the ordinances on political signs you will find a great deal of “tech-know-babble.”
The problem is making sense of it all; it is harder than figuring out a Rubik’s cube. The county has its regulations, as well as each town or municipality. Then there are the rules set by the North Carolina Department of Transportation.
If you really want to get a sense of it all, venture into chapter 2, section 17, of the Franklin County Unified Ordnance. If this does not totally peak your fun meter, try to find and/or contact many of those that are supposed to be the duty experts on this.
There are so many rules that even a person with superior reading comprehension skills will get tangled in the redundancy, definitions and double speak.
Political campaigns, like most contests, are very competitive. Everyone wants to win. Some will bend the rules if they can to gain unfair advantage; the rules need to be very clear.
It would be to everyone’s benefit if the county, towns, and municipalities were on the same page with rules and definitions. Apply the “KISS” principal; keep it simple sir.
A statement like this would go a long way in clearing much of this up.
“No type of political sign will be posted anywhere until a political candidate has filed his/her intent to run for office.”
Having sufficiently chased this rabbit from hole to hole, I decided I would go to the top of the food chain when it comes to political signs in Franklin County; the Planning and Inspection Department.
I have spoken with planning director, Scott Hammerbacher, on other issues in the past. He has always proven to be very knowledgeable and cordial.
We talked at great length. I think it is fair to say we agreed there are too many things that are vague, and/or contradictory when it comes to political signs.
The devil is in the details with the definitions of what a portable and political sign is. Permanent signs like billboards are controlled with contracts and are a different matter.
I asked Hammerbacher how it was possible to enforce the ordinance. He stated it can prove to be difficult. Controversy swirls around the issue.
Enforcement, he said, is done by exception. Meaning if someone makes a complaint, he will cause it to be taken under review.
Hammerbacher said it comes down to the intent of the ordinances. It is hard to craft an ordinance that covers every possibility.
He said the intent with portable and political signs is that they are not to be put out until the date established for candidates to file, in this case Feb. 10.
Having gained an understanding of it all, I asked the obvious question: Then why is it I see signs all over the place now, and have for many months?
He said all candidates that inquired about this were made aware of the intent.
To me it just makes sense that anyone running for office would ask about this.
One of the moving parts hard to control on this is what a property owner does on his / her own land.
If someone wants to gain advantage to get around the ordinance and side step the intent, they can simply ask people to put signs on their property.
This is exactly what has been done and we all know who has been doing it.
The reality is some people will bend the rules if they can get away with it.
The signs I am talking about are for people running for sheriff. I have not seen one sign for any other office.
Now think about this for a minute. Running for sheriff and doing this, you have to be kidding me!
If a candidate is purchasing signs and undermining the intent of this to gain advantage by soliciting people to place them on their property, then that is a clear indicator of how he will conduct himself if he were to win an election.
Friends will do what they can do to help friends, but are you really someone’s friend if you ask them to do something that you know is wrong?
An organization will reflect its leadership. This type of thing sends a clear message to the rank and file that the rules do not apply to me. After all, that is the example the boss is setting.
Some will try to justify this, yet they themselves know it is wrong.
Having ethics is not a sometimes thing.
Final thought, is this voter fraud?