This week political signs became the “scandal” of the moment in Newton ― it seems like nearly everyone involved with local politics is talking about them.
Signs too big. Signs out too early. Signs, placed by the supporters of candidates, breaking one rule or another. In at least once case, a sign removed without the consent of the homeowner ― replaced by a sign for the opposing candidate.
Some of this problem rests on the shoulders of city hall. We will get to that in a minute. The real problem lies in the misguided and misused passion within the political race.
“Nobody wants to play by the rules,” said Joyce Truskett, county clerk. She is frustrated. As the county election official, she has received the phone calls and heard the complaints about signs for nearly every candidate running in the upcoming primary.
She is also the person who in a recent election broke up a news conference on the courthouse lawn. That conference, thrown by several candidates, violated election law by placing signs and advertising for candidates within 250 feet of an active polling place.
This election she is hearing about the signs that some deem to be too large. She's hearing about signs placed that while legal, the location could be considered poor taste. This week has pushed her buttons.
And many of those calls are really a misguided passion.
Pointing a finger over a placard that is allowable says more about the finger-pointer's belief in their candidate's ability to win than anything else. It also shows the state of politics today. Candidates, it would seem, can no longer simply run on the issues and what their plans are. They have to sully the reputation of the other candidate.
If there is a violation, and keep in mind there are eight different sets of codes within Harvey County, then the candidate on the sign should take care of that. They may, or may not, have been involved in placing the sign in violation. Anyone other than the homeowner or the candidate on the sign removing or tampering with the sign can be charged with a crime.
Those placement and size rules were much clearer within the city of Newton in the last election cycle. This time around, it is a bit murky. The city attorney has said the city will no longer enforce the published size restrictions. That move is what touched off the frenzy this week. One candidate placed signs throughout Newton which violate that published restriction. They did so after consulting with the city to see what the rules are. That consultation was the right move. City Hall is where this issue blew up.
There was not a legal notice of this decision, and the county clerk was notified after the fact. All of that created this problem.
Keep in mind, there is a pattern of behavior when it comes to the enforcement of sign rules in Newton. Garage Sale signs have regulations, but are not enforced. Now, the same can be said for parts of the regulation of political signs.
All of this is really a sideshow. What we need to elect our officials on are matters of policy ― not what their sign in the neighbor's yard looks like.
— Kansan editorial board