Campaign signs have a long tradition in American politics, and some pundits estimate that each sign is worth nearly a dozen votes. For the past decade in Lake Forest the person with the most signs won the election, but that statistic may not be wholly reliable since the person with the most signs has also been the person with the largest overall budget.
Signs are expensive. They cost from $5 to $8 apiece, and an average campaign uses hundreds of signs. Not only do they have a cost to purchase, they take a considerable amount of time to deploy, and unless you have volunteers, putting out the signs is also a cost.
Thus, when campaign signs go missing, it can be a big blow to a campaign. Recently there have been several articles about signs being stolen, and this week the case of the missing signs took a new turn.
THE FLOPPING SIGNS
On Oct 15 I was alerted by fellow Lake Forest City Council candidate Mike Healey that along El Toro Road (the main thoroughfare) several of my signs (and other candidates’) had been knocked over. I went looking and found 21 signs – 7 were mine, 7 belonged to Liz Miller, and 4 belonged to Tom Cagley – all challengers in the 8 person race for 3 seats. Nearby, signs for Scott Voigts, Dave Bass, and Andrew Hamilton remained standing. Voigts and Bass are incumbents and Hamilton is a Voigts sycophant who has been serving without distinction on the Planning Commission.
Pictured above are the 21 signs collected in a single day
It must have been a strange wind that selectively knocked over the signs of the challengers but left the signs for insiders Voigts, Hamilton, and Bass standing.
On Oct 17 I went out again and found another dozen more signs with similar fates, and even as I write this (Oct 19) my supporters report more downed signs.
It reminded me of the last time I ran against Voigts. In 2010, every time one of my signs went up next to one of his, my sign disappeared. I spoke to Voigts about the problem, but he denied any involvement, claiming that several people were distributing his signs and he couldn’t be responsible for what they did, although he said he had urged everyone to play fair and not disturb other people’s signs. The practice continued, though at a lesser pace, until I decided not to place my signs next to his, at which point my signs stopped disappearing.
Voigts, by the way, had the most signs and the most money to spend in 2010 and came in first.
I’m reasonably sure Scott Voigts isn’t openly telling his supporters to knock over my signs and the signs of the other challengers, and leave the signs of his supporters standing. But this is what is happening.
THE STOLEN SIGNS
On Oct 16 I received an e-mail from City Hall saying that 9 of my signs had been confiscated and were waiting to be picked up along with over 30 more signs for other candidates. Apparently along with Liz Miller, Tom Cagley, and Scott Voigts, our supporters had put signs where they didn’t belong and the City had picked them up.
Around 11 am I rolled up to the City and went inside their bin where the signs were being stored: low and behold, nearly all the signs were missing. Stacked behind a garbage bin I found 2 of my signs and 1 for Liz Miller, but the rest of my signs and those of Miller, Cagley, and Voigts were missing. I knew Tom Cagley wasn’t available to have picked up the signs so I called Liz Miller to see if she had picked up my signs along with hers. She hadn’t. So, sometime between when they were stored and when I was notified, someone went into the bin and took all the signs they could see from me, Tom, Liz, and Scott Voigts. According to City officials, the only person who had been in the bin was a Voigts supporter.
I asked to look at the surveillance tapes to see who had taken the signs. I was told that the City Hall has no surveillance cameras, even though it houses the City Hall as well as the Police station.
IS IT A SIGN?
A few months ago I asked each of the candidates for City Council in Lake Forest to voluntarily forego the use of campaign signs, which I consider have no educational value, litter the streets, and cause an increase in the cost of campaigns which leads some candidates to take money from special interests and then return the favor by voting for their projects. As reported earlier, Voigts is notorious for this practice, as is his BFF Mayor Dwight Robinson.
Most of the candidates agreed to at least some form of voluntary restriction, but Scott Voigts and Andrew Hamilton were not among them.
Do you see a pattern here?
Voigts has been complaining about missing signs. I can’t verify that one way or the other, but I do know that Voigts’ signs showed up on private property, school property, and HOA property, and have been lawfully removed. So while Voigts is complaining about stolen signs, my signs and other candidates’ signs are disappearing at an alarming rate, either by being stolen, the theft from the City Hall parking lot or by being knocked over, which has the same impact as being stolen.
It’s a waste of time and money and energy to be dealing with these problems. We should be discussing how to make the City a better place to live, and how we are going to meet the challenges that lie just ahead.
When I get elected to City Council I want to re-open the discussion on the use of campaign signs and I want to suggest that we limit them to individual’s property.
About Jim Gardner