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Nyack Candidates Condemn Sign Thefts

by Dave Zornow

“Unlike stealing a lawn gnome or a plastic pink flamingo…stealing a lawn sign is a more heinous crime. There is moral and ethical guilt.”
Confessions of a Lawn Sign Stealer, The Huffington Post

Unlike the competitive jostling for placing babysitting, tennis lessons and yoga class posters in Nyack’s stores, lawn sign theft is a bit more serious. It’s a misdemeanor.  And Nyack’s candidates for public office are speaking out against it.

“It is very simple. Any supporter of the Constitution, and especially the First Amendment, would deplore the stealing of any lawn signs of any candidate, regardless of your view of the candidate,” says Nyack Mayor John Shields. His comments follow a post to NyackNewsAndViews by John Ballard, Where Have All The Lawn Signs Gone? on 7/25.

Ballard writes that eight lawn signs for Marianne Olive’s campaign for Mayor  all disappeared at once. When they were replaced, the new signs were also mysteriously removed. “I’m a little bit surprised by the pettiness of the gesture,” Ballard says.

“I have had to replace, more than once, several of my signs,” says mayoral candidate Marie Lorenzini. It is not only an infringement on my First Amendments rights, it becomes a very costly matter, too” she says.  “It is unacceptable behavior to take down anyone’s signs and I hope the problem does not continue,” adds Trustee Denise Hogan, who is also running for mayor.

Village Board candidate Jen Laird-White is against the theft of lawn signs — and lawn signs in general, too. “Of course it’s truly terrible for anyone to remove lawn signs,” she says.  “Anyone sabotaging someone willing to take on such a goliath task as running for public office should be thoroughly spanked and forced to run for office themselves.”

Laird-White goes further and questions the value of lawn signs. “They are neither aesthetically pleasing nor environmentally friendly. They are covered with a wax that I suspect doesn’t disappear over time and stuck onto bits of metal that join them in the landfill.  And no one ever, EVER comes to pick them up once Election Day is over.” As a political newcomer, Laird-White admits this is “it’s the way it’s always been done” but wishes we could find a better way.  “I’ll let you know if I come up with one,” she adds.

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“The bigger problem with visual pollution and clutter occurs when lawn signs are placed and not removed on public land,” says mayoral candidate Richard Kavesh. “Some towns charge candidates a fee, refunding the money only after all the lawn signs have been removed from the town’s public property. That’s a pretty good incentive to remove them after the election is over,” he says.

It’s not even clear how important lawn signs are at all. “It’s common political wisdom, say consultants and campaign managers, that lawn signs play little role in the outcome,” writes Phil Busse in the Huffington Post. “Akin to wearing the home team’s color on game day or fans painting their faces, the political lawn sign is more statement than persuasion.”

And “theft” can be in the eye of the beholder. In one suburban Washington, DC district, candidates decried how hundreds of signs placed by their supporters were being stolen and demanded an investigation. As it turned out, the “stolen” signs had been illegally placed on public property. And the “thefts” were committed by maintenance workers who removed the signs while cutting the grass under the highway median strips where they had been placed.

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