2016-10-20 / Life in Leelanau

‘Sign Wars’ escalate across county

By Patti Brandt Burgess
Of The Enterprise staff

THE SIGN WAR is on, with both Democrats and Republicans reporting that signs supporting their candidates are being taken. THE SIGN WAR is on, with both Democrats and Republicans reporting that signs supporting their candidates are being taken. In an election year political signs become a part of the landscape, often warring with the fall colors for attention.

In Leelanau County — and likely in counties across the nation — there’s another war going on: the Sign War.

For some local people, signs are showing up where they’re not wanted. For others, signs are being stolen off their property.

For still others, signs are being run over.

Gwenne Allgaier supports Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and has a sign showing her support on her Traverse Lake Road property.

“It was run over the first night,” Allgaier said. “But I straightened it out and it hasn’t been run over since.”

Four of her neighbors also had their signs run over.

POLITICAL SIGNS of all bents line M-22 in Northport near the sign welcoming people to the village. POLITICAL SIGNS of all bents line M-22 in Northport near the sign welcoming people to the village. But in an election year that many say is the worse they’ve ever seen, the sign thieves are bipartisan.

Karen Josephus, head of the Leelanau County Republic Party, says several people have reported stolen signs supporting Republican nominee Donald Trump — including her.

“It’s more than I’ve ever heard of before,” said Josephus, who lives on M-22 in Bingham Township. “People are nasty about this election. They’re divisive.”

Betsy Johnson, head of the Leelanau County Democratic Party, said more than 50 Clinton/Kaine signs have been given out locally. And many of them have vanished.

“I think it’s obvious that this election has not brought out the best in many people, unfortunately,” Johnson said. “Stealing signs is an example of that.”

Lake Leelanau resident Jessie Ray said several signs supporting Republican candidates at her son’s in-law’s Lake Leelanau Excavating property on M-204 and north of Leland have gone missing. But not all of the signs are disappearing.

“It’s only the Trump signs,” Ray said. “The rest of them seem to be left alone.”

The Trump/Pence sign has been taken — and replaced — three times.

“But we’re out of signs now,” Ray said.

She doesn’t know who keeps taking the signs, but one thing’s for sure.

“It’s someone that really doesn’t like him, as far as I can figure,” Ray said. “I think that’s really not very honest. And from what I’ve been told, against the law.”

Leelanau County Clerk Michelle Crocker had the opposite problem when signs began to appear on her family’s property.

Political signs are very visible and promote name recognition, which can turn into a vote when someone goes to the polls, Crocker said.

“Let’s face it, signs are the biggest bang for the buck,” Crocker said.

But candidates or people supporting a candidate can’t just plunk them down anywhere.

“I think it’s really important that when people are putting these signs up they have permission from the property owner,” Crocker said.

Crocker said she knows how it feels to find that someone has trespassed onto their property during the night and placed an unwanted political sign.

“I understand what that person is going through because I didn’t appreciate waking up in the morning to find an unauthorized sign on family property,” Crocker said.

It’s happened a couple of times this year, in fact, she said.

“They go up, they go down, they go up, they go down,” Crocker said.

Crocker doesn’t usually put political signs in her yard because of her position, a big part of which is running elections.

“People can’t separate my personal life from my job,” Crocker said.

But there are other people in her home — namely, her husband — who do have political views. The unwanted signs have prompted him to put up signs supporting the candidate of his choice, she said.

When someone finds an unwanted sign in their yard they should pull it out and just lay it on the ground, Crocker recommends. They can call the candidate to come and pick up the sign, or if they don’t want to do that, they can take the sign to the clerk’s office and Crocker will take care of it.

What they shouldn’t do, she said, is destroy the signs, as they are expensive.

Allgaier said political signs are a person’s right and it’s not a good feeling when someone steals or destroys them.

“I feel violated,” Allgaier said. “That’s our property and people are running over something I’ve put out to express my support for someone. I should be able to express myself without people getting nasty about it.”

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I'm all for "leelanau nice,"

I'm all for "leelanau nice," but frankly, if I found that someone trespassed on my lawn to install a political sign I doubt very much that I would "take the sign to the clerk's office..."