Ban election signs in public spaces

It’s time for the yearly spate of letters to the Reporter objecting to the proliferating political campaign signs. In my seven years on the Island, residents have made some excellent points in their letters-to-the-editor, protesting the signs on aesthetic, waste and even moral grounds. Alas, I can only recall one such letter last year, from a very bright Middle School girl.

I submit it is time to respond to the wishes of many in the community and ban the signs from public spaces.

Yes, the signs do serve some purposes, not always what the candidates have in mind. Sign placement itself indicates a candidate may be ignoring at least that subset of the community that does not want the signs. They show which candidates prefer to have their names plastered all over, and which take a more refined approach. Signs with small print placed along a street (illegible at 30 miles per hour) show that these candidates do not understand their target audience. I hope they’re not wanting us to slow down to read the message. Groupings of the same sign show which candidates are good at overkill and redundancy. Premature sign placement shows a disregard for the resultant, extended visual blight.

The signs are primarily used to increase name recognition. In the article “Money and Politics” by J. Jacob Edel in the July 4 Mercer Island Reporter, it was stated that (the candidates) “Each want the same thing: name recognition and, ultimately, votes.”

Name recognition is the crux of the issue. This time-dishonored habit should end. Recognizing a name is not a valid reason for casting a vote. Of course for many people it is just one factor in their decision, but for some, recognizing a name triggers a vote. If a sign means a vote due to name recognition, then that vote has been bought — not won, not debated for, not merited — just bought.

Signs on private property don’t bother me. I just ignore them. I don’t care who you are supporting … your business as far as I’m concerned. Voters should eschew influence from anyone save their own research and judgment.

Using public space to buy votes does not serve us well. Teaching the next generation that name recognition is a valid form of decision-making is not good. Re-examining and improving campaign tactics are healthy endeavors.

Navigating the Island streets, by motorized vehicle or bicycle, takes concentration. We already have to avoid the humongous SUVs. We now have to make our way through the busy traffic snarl we have created at the intersection of S.E. 27th Street and 77th Avenue S.E. We have to adjust to the new world order, where cell phone usage has pretty much negated the use of turn signals, let alone consideration for other drivers/bikers. We need fewer distractions, not more. At least we don’t have sign-waving mattress salespeople, like some of our neighboring communities. Why is it legal to distract a driver?

I dreamt that the Mercer Island sign guerrillas struck. Suddenly, in many spots around the Island, new signs sprang up. One sign said “No signs”. Where sprays of identical campaign signs existed close to each other, new signs appeared saying “Redundant.” My favorite was a sign with no words, just a simple circle with a diagonal line through it: a new kind of stop sign(s). A very good dream.

We can take a step forward. Let’s ban political signs in public places ... we can be the first Island in the lake to do so!

Barry Franklin is an Island resident.

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