It seems like yesterday, when it was the 2004 election season here in Troutdale. Jim Kight and Mayor Thalhofer were engaged in a political sign war that blanketed the city.
At the corner of 257th and Halsey, Kight built signs up, up up like a skyscraper, squeezing the intent and meaning of Troutdale's sign codes so hard they begged for mercy. Mayor Thalhofer went the sign "sprawl" route, trying to plant at least five signs per square foot. Every street corner was covered with signs for every candidate and ballot measure. And yours truly made sure his signs were placed at all the high traffic areas. The more, the merrier!
My own neighborhood, Sandee Palisades, was plastered with multiple signs per front yard. The sign combinations I particularly enjoyed were "Kerry/Edwards" and "Yes on Measure 36" (Defense of Marriage) in the same front yard.
Now THAT's what Troutdale politics are all about. I don't mean I supported Kerry/Edwards, because I didn't. But the sight of so many homes supporting a liberal presidential candidate and a conservative ballot measure were a sight for sore eyes. Politics in Troutdale is not as cut and dried as it is elsewhere in the People's Republic of Multnomah.
As it turned out, enough people complained about the plethora of political signs during the Fall 2004 political season that Troutdale's citizen advisory committee was asked to come up with some solutions. I won't go into all the details of their proposal, but one of them is to limit the number of political signs in any non-residential lot to ten. Not per candidate, but ten total signs. Residential lots could still have as many signs as the property owner wished.
I know the citizen advisory committee meant well, but limiting the number of signs to a combined ten signs for all candidates, ballot measures etc. would mean the property owner would be placed in the position of limiting free speech for the candidates and ballot measures who weren't included in the property owner's quota of ten signs.
And the result should be obvious for everyone-- limiting the number of signs to ten would mean the financially fat candidates and ballot measures could pay the property owner for sign placement, and the smaller, more local candidates, such as CITY OF TROUTDALE candidates and ballot measures would be squeezed out.
At the same time, with no restrictions on signs for residential lots, we could see an even worse proliferation of signs in residential neighborhoods. But you know what? This would be great! It's what alread happens every election season here in Troutdale. Because one thing became obvious when I went door to door while running for city council-- Troutdale residents LOVE THEIR POLITICS!!
They love the political signs, they love to talk about the issues, they love to argue about their favorite candidates, and they love to complain about the "other guy" who is running for office. Yes, political signs in Troutdale during election season tend to go overboard. But this is no reason for the city to limit the number of political signs during election season. The opposite is true. The mass quantities of political signs are the very lifeblood of our political system and our fair city!
Political signs are only allowed for a short period of time. They are there for a reason. I was a candidate. I'll tell you right now the reason why I put out all those signs everywhere, just like every other candidate. Are you ready? I'm going to tell you why now: BECAUSE I COULD!
It's all about free speech, baby. All the way. We're not caught up in Lockstep Larry Land such as those areas in Portland-- Hawthorne, Beaumont/Wilshire, Inner Northeast, where there is no choice for candidates or ballot measures. Those areas vote 80-90% lockstep one way, guaranteed, political race after political race. Three guesses which way they vote.
It's different out here in Troutdale. Political candidates out here have to fight like dogs and cats, scratching and clawing to persuade their neighbors to vote their way. And everyone loves the battle, candidates and voters alike. People don't make their minds up just because it's the politically correct thing to do.
Candidates have to prove their worth one vote at a time out here. Voters can smell a phony candidate or a wet behind the ears college student signature gatherer fresh out of Reed College, or a Roman York wannabee a mile away. They aren't afraid to ask hard questions, and it's death at the doorstep if a candidate's answer to a voter's question comes with the "deer in headlights" look.
Troutdale politics IS all about the thousands of lawn signs. It IS about front yards proudly displaying "Kerry/Edwards" and "Yes on Measure 36" signs at the same time.
It's about dialogue with our neighbors. It's about respect and even enjoyment of the political battle. It's about being an American. It's about being a good citizen. We're not "activists" in Troutdale. We're citizens. We don't need the fancy "activist" label. We know who and what we are.
Politics is war by other means. I'll support the political signs wars until my dying breath. The City of Troutdale has no business restricting the number of temporary political signs. I 'll never vote to restrict the political sign wars. Ever.
Where would be the fun in that?
(BTW, I apologize right now to my dog, George W., for the politically incorrect statement about dogs and cats fighting. I don't want you to get in trouble with "Basic KittyKat Rights Oregon". . .) Meow!