Letter to the editor: Political signs are being illegally removed


Primary election voting is just around the corner. Many of us who belong to the Edmonds Civic Roundtable have been hearing directly from candidates that there are individuals in the Edmonds community that are removing their political signs from both public and private property. I find this quite discouraging. Regardless of what a person’s beliefs or commitment to a particular candidate, individuals run for office in good faith to help our community. It is just unAmerican to remove or destroy a political sign. When you steal a yard sign, you are stealing freedom of speech.

Moreover, it’s illegal under several Washington State laws, which make it quite clear, any person convicted of such violations would be subject to a misdemeanor, perhaps second-degree criminal trespass, or even be considered, based on the circumstances, a hate crime; all with fines and imprisonment.

I along with the membership of the Edmonds Civic Roundtable (ECR) celebrate the diversity of candidates in the upcoming elections. Sadly, we recognize there might be individuals who judge others by criteria other than their qualifications to serve. We encourage anyone seeing a person defacing or destroying any political sign to report the incident to the Edmonds Police Department; and a picture would be helpful. We have learned the value of a community’s eyes and ears is one of the very best ways to prevent crime.

Also, as a reminder the primary election is just around the corner. Voting booklets will be out soon as early mail voting begins July 16, 2021 and goes through Primary Election Day August 3, 2021. You are encouraged to learn about each candidate. The ECR home page website has exact candidate statements you will soon find in the voter booklet published for early review. https://www.edmondscivicroundtable.org

Tom Mesaros
Chair, the Edmonds Civic Roundtable

  1. Thank you Tom. I have had two signs taken out of my yard. It’s so disheartening that someone would do that. I see plenty of signs for people I don’t support, and I just keep on walking. It’s petty and small to remove signs from private property.

    1. By the same token, is it OK for someone to put a political sign up in your yard without asking, for a candidate you disapprove of. I have had it happen to me- and you know what happened to that sign??

      1. Of course. If anyone puts anything on my own property I would move it immediately, even if I liked the candidate. If it continued I would call the candidate.

  2. Yes it is Maggie. This is why I don’t do signs in my yard or car. I know someone will take that sign just for the pleasure of being ornery and non compliant. I don’t want my car scratched or my car windows broken. So I wish I could do it but I don’t take those kinds of risks. We probably all just shouldn’t do it. But to each his or her own on this deal.

  3. A couple of guys did the opposite of this the other day. I saw people join 4th parade adhoc with “Drop the Mike” signs. Edmonds gay pride, dancing horses, Drop the Mike. Gangster.

    1. Kind of like the sad Trump folks who put up their signs on the 3rd. Their guy lost and they are sore losers. And they’re trying to bring their guy back again. That MEGA crowd – they have a lot of time on their hands. It is pathetically hilarious.

      1. I believe it’s the complete opposite Sam. Republicans work, democrats and socialists do not and encourage government handouts . Who would have more time on their pathetic hands?

        1. I think we need to avoid this kind of assertion. I’m a Democrat. I’ve worked hard all my life. Most of my friends are Democrats as well, and ALL are hard-working engineers, teachers, non-profit workers, computer guys, doctors… None want or expect a handout.

          Where on earth do you get your information?

        2. Oh the irony. You posted this incredibly biased, ridiculous and provably inaccurate comment on My Edmonds News. The publisher of this news site is well known to be one of the hardest working women in Edmonds.

      2. Silly to put those signs up again, but let’s avoid broad generalizations. This is a small community, let’s keep it respectful.

  4. I had a sign stolen from my yard too. It wasn’t even a political The sign said, I Choose Kindness. Why would someone want to steal that message?

  5. Citizens will agree that stealing signs from another property owners property is unlawful. But some candidates have two other failures of respect that should be concerning. First, candidates should not be placing signs on private property without permission from the property owner, nor in the right-of-way fronting the private property. Second, the city invested and maintains beautiful flowered landscape islands throughout city streets. It is annoying to many to witness the planting of signs on these islands, such as the intersection of Caspers and 9th Avenue North. This sign blitz is a distraction from the attractive floral setting and makes one wish for a quick end to the campaign season.

    1. Everybody remember that Mr Nelson’s property on 9th and Main is Republican corner. All other signs will be removed.

      1. Funny Sam- your comment about people posting signs on other people’s property without permission got posted and mine got deleted. You must have connections.

        1. No comment was deleted. It just took me a moment to approve all the new ones.

  6. Apparently they “Chose Kindness.” I guess one could “Steal Kindness” in a sense, but not very nice or really kind for that matter.

    1. Maybe torching their lawn is free speech, too? Ideally, free speech should not entail theft of other people’s property, much less taking away their free speech, by stealing their signs.

  7. I agree that taking or defacing yard signs is wrong, childish, and illegal. I am on Janelle Cass’s campaign team. Last night I had two yard signs taken after 9pm. I am an early riser and by 5am they were back up.

    Unfortunately, one can expect some degree of chicanery during political campaigns. Our campaign has had to deal with our opponent placing their signs 3 or 4 inches in front of ours in an apparent attempt to obstruct the view of our sign. How have we dealt with this childish annoyance? We have gone out and moved our sign away from our opponents.

    This is an important election for Edmonds. We’ve just celebrated our Independence Day. We have the wonderful privilege to vote, to make our voice heard. Let’s vet each candidate before we cast that most precious vote. What does he or she stand for, what is their platform? Where does their support – boots on the ground and financial donations – come from? Are special interest groups exerting their will on our candidates with donations trying to make Edmonds into shades of Seattle or Ballard? This is about Edmonds – not Seattle, San Francisco, Utah or any other place. This is about electing folks to represent OUR interests and not be beholding to outside interests. It’s about good, honest, and transparent government. It’s about the health and safety of our city, of every Edmonds resident.

    So, I urge everyone of you, of us, to let your voice be heard. Get out and VOTE in the primary and then again in November. Vote for and support your chosen candidate. This is the right thing to do.

    The time is now. Stand up and be counted Edmonds.

    Theresa Campa Hutchison, ret Registered Nurse

    1. Hi Teresa H, Some one on your campaign has put a sign just east of 12th avenue in the planting area that is maintained by the adjacent property owner. It would be helpful it it were moved to the pubic area south of Main Street.

  8. If a candidate places a sign where it annoys you, just call them and they will likely move it, even if it is legally placed (in the public right of way). That would be better than just parking a boat in front of the sign like someone has done with my sign on 220th. If you call the candidate, they would know whether to move the sign, or wait until the boat moves.

    Most candidates agree that signs are an unfortunate part of campaigning, but my last week has been filled with people asking for signs, and telling me to put more up. Sorry.

    1. Hi Lora, Some one on our campaign has put a sign just east of 12th avenue in the planting area that is maintained by the adjacent property owner. It would be helpful it it were moved to the pubic area south of Main Street.

      1. Darrol-

        I moved one, let me know if I got the right one. (I had to move it anyway, as it had been blocked by another candidates sign.)

        1. Lora, I recommend referring to the City GIS maps/ aerial view, that show the overlay of where the private property versus public right of way exists. It is likely that your signage was very legally placed in compliance with the sign codes. I appreciate, though, that you are responsive to the neighbors preferences.

    2. Ha. A boat huh. That’s funny. The world’s gone mad. Yeah, do they really matter, the signs. Do you think they help or just cause more fighting? Maybe mimes? That would startle them when they go for a grab. Or a little siren notice when you check? Just kidding. I like you. Good luck.

    3. To Darrol,
      Just to be clear Darrol, the space adjacent to a telephone pole does not have to be maintained by property owners,that is the telephone companies business and you might see that they have been treated with weed killer. Thus, that area is “fair game” during election season. I spoke with Edmonds Public Works recently and they were clear about that. The area in between the poles is a different story.

  9. Theresa,

    “our opponent”? Janelle has three opponents: Lora Petso, Will Chen, and the appointed current council member, Luke Distelhorst.

  10. Political signs…. Every election season the streets are littered with them, they get stolen, and are often not picked up afterward. What do they accomplish anyway.? How about just banning them? The candidates could spend more time and money on substantive matters. Or do like Paul Shinn used to do and stand out holding his own sign. They really are an eyesore, expensive, and after the season just trash. We can’t have plastic bags but plasticized signs all over? Such a waste. I would rather enjoy the summer/fall look of the flowers and grassy areas sans signs.

  11. Based on the number of signs, Edmonds Garden Tour has a good chance of doing well in the primary!

  12. Does anyone know where I can easily find the real rules related to where it is legal in Edmonds to post political and misc. marketing signs and also maps or guidance on what is considered private versus public property? Bonus points if there is information about who you call for enforcement.

    Also… did the M.E.N. rules for posting change to allow us to just use our last initial instead of our full last name, as Diane T has done above?

      1. Those who have been readers since I first started My Emdonds News nearly 12 years ago are familiar with Diane T. She was one of many early commenters — at that time we were a small commenting community and before I started requiring first and last names — I knew all my readers. When I started requiring full names, she requested to continue using her first name/last initial for her own personal reasons that she shared with me. I took an informal poll of readers at the time and we collectively agreed to let her continue under that name. So she has essentially been grandfathered in — and the only one, to my knowledge.
        I hope that helps.

        1. Interesting coincidence, the term “grandfathered” refers back to policies used in the south to prevent the freed slaves from having voting rights.

          Thank you, Theresa, to explaining why there is an exception to your policies.

        2. Please continue using the word and term “grandfathered” as it’s definition is transitive verb, and in modern times has nothing to do with prevent the freed slaves from having voting rights.

          It is perfectly and politically correct to use to identify a clause creating an exemption based on circumstances previously existing.

        3. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grandfather_clause

          Christine is right. The implications are that we all stop saying “grandfathered”. The white Slavic people would like us all to stop using the world slave to describe non-Slavics. I’m neither from the Caucus region or Asian, and would like everyone to stop referring to people as Caucasian. This won’t be difficult. Let’s go back to grunts to communicate because etymology will find issues with most every word said. Lets start completely over. Uh uh uh.

  13. The City of Edmonds Code is available on the City’s website. The sign code is found in Chapter 20.60 ECDC.

      1. This is awesome detail, Ken. I see that campaign signs and certain other marketing materials are allowed in the public right of way within a parameters & time frames. It’s also helpful to refer to the GIS maps to determine where the public right of ways exist because i think many people ASSUME where the lines live between public/right of way vs private property, especially when it comes to the area that someone else referred to as a “republican corner” but actually very much does have a public right of way where it is very much legal to post the signs and illegal to remove them. Gotta love the GIS maps. They are super non-partisan.

        1. Ken Reidy has a performed a good service in directing citizens to the Edmonds Municipal Code regarding signage. Ms Cossu, however, has jumped to an incorrect conclusion regarding political signs being placed in the right-of-way. In 2006, the City Attorney issued a letter to The Mayor, all City Council Members, The Chief of Police, and the Director of Developmental Services explaining that a State Supreme Court decision in “Collier v City of Tacoma” upheld a provision that “placement of signs in the right-of-way abutting private property requires the consent of the property owner”. Further, “the city should not charge a private property owner who removes signs from the right-of-way (parking strip) abutting their private property”. I trust that this additional information will assist candidates who wish to place campaign signs on private property or in the right-of-way. Hopefully, candidates will also adhere to removing their signs rapidly after the elections are concluded. We need not suffer from the “sign blight” for a prolonged period of time.

        2. Happy to help. I spend just a little time on the City’s website!
          The City truly has an excellent website and the GIS map is phenomenal.
          I also stumbled across property permit files a few weeks ago that are very helpful. Many public record requests are made for property permit information, etc. – but much of that information is available on line if one knows how to find it.
          To access, go to the Development Services Page on the City’s website . Click on Permit Assistance.
          That will take you to a page where City of Edmonds Permit Records are available for many addresses within City limits.
          One must enter the “Development Services” file folder where old permit records are arranged by street (numeric then alpha) and by building address.
          By the way, I appreciate Diane T as a superstar commenter. She has offered deep comprehensive thoughts for all to consider for many years. I’m pretty sure I am one of the people Teresa polled years ago. I don’t think I’ve ever missed reading one of her posts. I’ve learned much from reading her comments and she has helped me to see things more broadly than I tend to see on my own.

  14. Thanks Gary for pointing that out.
    Another great source for those who like to research municipal law is MRSC.org.
    One can go to that website and search for an article titled:
    Regulating Non-Commercial Temporary Signs During Election Season

  15. Thank you Gary, to explain so clearly sign placement. I appreciate your service, as a Senator, thank you !

    The Council position is supposed to be non partisan,
    therefore I am confused about the republic row comment. It’s unfortunate how some people pop onto post to criticize others to cause division, instead of being neighborly.

    I think Kristiana, Neil and Janell would be a great fit to fill the upcoming seats. I am Looking forward to the upcoming debate!

  16. For those who may not want to search for the MRSC article, following are 2 excerpts from that article:

    1. Can a local government prohibit political and other signs in the public right-of-way?

    Political signs cannot be prohibited in the areas between the street and sidewalk (or in the unpaved section of the right-of-way where there is no sidewalk), commonly referred to as the “parking strip.” However, in our opinion, political signs can be prohibited in the untraveled area of a right-of-way that does not involve parking strips, such as in boulevard medians or in the middle of roundabouts.

    2. May political signs be placed in a parking strip without the consent of the abutting property owner?

    No. As a general rule, the public right-of-way, which include parking strips, is only an easement and the underlying property belongs to the abutting property owner. As such, only that property owner or the tenant of the property owner may determine what, if any, political signs are placed in the parking strip.

    On another note, the term grandfathered is used regularly by our city government. For example, it is found in the May 4, 2021 and June 15, 2021 City Council Agenda Packets. The term has been used related to our sign laws. The March 21, 2017 City Council Agenda packet mentions the term many times and includes the following exhibit:

    Exhibit 4: Director’s Interpretation regarding pedestrian sign grandfathering

    The August 18, 2008 City Council Meeting Minutes include:

    “He explained the City requires a true and accurate plot plan with every building permit application. Often these reveal accessory buildings for which there is no record regarding when it was constructed. As the City’s records are fairly good from January 1, 1981 when the ECDC was adopted, staff proposed an amendment if the property owner could show the accessory structure existed prior to that date, it would be presumed to be nonconforming. For areas that annexed to the City, if the property owner could demonstrate the structure existed at the time of annexation, it would be grandfathered.

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