Pitting the pocketbook: The cost of political signs
November 6, 2009
By Tim Pfarr
It was recently election season again, and as always, paper and plastic political signs were out in full force.
Sign distributor Art Boruck, who sold signs to each of this year’s six Newcastle City Council candidates, said signs usually range between $1 and $4.50 each, with plastic signs and those with more than one color being more expensive.
However, such political signs are often subject to vandalism and theft, costing candidates time and money.
“It’s frustrating,” said John Dulcich, City Council Position 7 candidate. Dulcich purchased 250 signs, and he estimated that 30 to 50 of his signs were damaged or destroyed. With design expenses, his signs cost nearly $5 each, bringing his losses to $150 to $250. He spent a total of about $1,200 on political signs.
“It’s sort of the nature of the beast, unfortunately,” he said. “What are you going to do?”
Duclich’s opponent, incumbent City Councilwoman Jean Garber, said she originally purchased 100 signs, and about 70 of those were damaged or stolen. She then purchased 100 more signs and placed them where they were less likely to be vandalized, such as near lights and on high banks difficult to access on foot.
Garber said she lost a total of about 30 more signs after purchasing her second batch.
With design expenses, her signs cost about $2.35 each, bringing her losses to about $235. She spent about $470 on signs.
“What surprises me is how vicious it’s been,” Garber said. “I suspect that some of it is simply vandalism and some of it is people who just don’t like signs.”
Karin Blakley, City Council Position 5 candidate, said she originally purchased 100 signs, and between 70 and 80 were stolen or damaged. She then had to purchase 100 more signs to compensate for her losses. With design expenses, Blakley’s signs cost almost $3.25 each, bringing her total losses to somewhere between $225 and $260. She spent a total of nearly $650 on signs.
Blakley said that while she was in the Windtree neighborhood, an individual stole the magnetic sign attached to her car. That sign, identical in size and design to her political signs, cost $12.
Blakley said the stealing and vandalism is particularly unfortunate, because the placement of political signs is one of the few methods of name-promotion available to City Council candidates who ultimately wish to serve the public.
“I hope that people can be a little more patient in the future,” she said. “Really, our only venues are going around knocking on doors and then the signs. We’re trying to serve our community, and if they could just remember that.”
Blakely’s opponent, Rich Crispo, said he purchased 500 signs, and between 50 and 100 of his signs were stolen or destroyed. He had no design costs, and his signs cost about $1.10 each, bring his total losses to between $55 and $110. He spent about $550 on signs.
“I had a guy who just broke it and left it there,” Crispo said. “There are people like that who don’t realize that we have a legal right to do this.”
Bill Erxleben, City Council Position 6 candidate, purchased 250 signs at about $4.80 per sign, and he estimates about 80 of his signs were broken or stolen, bringing his losses to about $300. Erxleben used a previous design for his signs, sparing him design costs. He said he spent a total of about $950 on signs.
Erxleben said 40 of his signs were stolen the night of Oct. 23 alone. He said many of his signs were stolen from private property, and an individual spotted all 40 signs several days later in a ravine near 116th Avenue Southeast. Erxleben notified Newcastle Police of the incident.
“It’s disappointing to me and embarrassing to the city to see campaign tactics like this,” he said.
Erxleben’s opponent, Kandy Schendel, said she purchased 100 signs, and about 70 of them went missing. In total, her signs cost about $6 each, bringing her losses to about $420. She spent about $600 on signs.
“I think this city is better than this,” she said. “There are definitely people who don’t like signs.”
Schendel said she could only laugh about the problem.
“There are just grouchy people out there,” she said last month. “Whoever’s taking my signs is saving me the time of not having to pick them up after the election is over.”
Last year, Randall Goulet, 43, of Renton, was charged with stealing 138 campaign yard signs. He stole signs from Newcastle, Bellevue and unincorporated areas of Renton. Most of the signs Goulet stole belonged to Marcie Maxwell, who was a candidate for 41st District state representative at the time.
Goulet pleaded guilty to eight counts of removing or defacing political advertising and was charged with a $500 fine and 50 hours of community service.
However, Police Chief Melinda Irvine said Newcastle Police does not have any suspects this year, as no formal reports have been filed.
“We hear talk of political signs being stolen, but candidates rarely file reports on the loss,” Irvine said. “We have not received any reports this year that I am aware of.”
Irvine said a formal police report and witness information helped catch Goulet last year.
Damaging or defacing political signs is a misdemeanor punishable by up to $1,000 and 90 days in jail for each count. The theft of each individual sign is a separate offense.