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Political signs are disappearing

April 23, 2005|by GREGORY T. SIMMONS

gregs@herald-mail.com

As the City of Hagerstown elections near, some political campaign signs are disappearing as fast as they are appearing.

Hundreds of signs are beginning to dot city lawns, but some candidates have noticed that their signs aren't sticking around, probably due to a combination of weather, theft and rules on outdoor signs.

City Councilman Kristin B. Aleshire, one of three candidates who have signed affidavits that they will not spend more than $1,000 on their campaigns this year, said he has lost about 20 smaller signs so far.

Some might have been swept away by high winds, but not all of them. While those signs cost about $3 apiece, Aleshire said it is annoying that some signs have disappeared.

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"I have limited resources, unlike others," Aleshire said. "I'm sure it happens just to about everyone, it's just that others have a means" to replace them.

Aleshire, a Democrat, said he also has personally built a few larger signs. When they disappeared, he first thought it might have been vandals, but they turned up at the local State Highway Administration office.

It turned out his signs had been taken by state roads officials because of sign regulations. No advertising signs, including political signs, are allowed on state highway rights of way, including shoulders and medians.

Hagerstown City Police Lt. Rick Reynolds, a department shift commander, said he is unaware of any complaints regarding missing signs, and none of the daily reports have reflected broader problems.

Two Republican candidates said they also were recently apparent victims of sign theft. A group of their signs along Dual Highway had disappeared, although the stakes used to hold them in the ground still were there earlier this week.

Richard F. Trump, the Republican nominee for mayor, said he's seen that signs have been bent, and some have disappeared.

"It's just part of the campaign. It's just nonsense," Trump said. "If people are knocking your signs down ... they must be frightened or scared. ... It's a compliment."

Trump and his five Republican running mates have been pooling their resources through a political action committee that receives donations and distributes cash to each candidate.

In the most recent campaign finance reporting period, which ended in late February, between the candidates' individual accounts and the PAC, the slate had access to about $23,500, although some have estimated that amount since has doubled.

Trump said one thing the cash has bought the slate is more durable signs. He said on average, between larger and smaller signs, their signs cost about $12.50.

"You can't, like, crumple 'em up. ... They're hard to stuff somewhere and easily dispose of," Trump said.

Ruth Anne Callaham, a candidate for council running with Trump, said she at first thought the disappearance of the signs along Dual Highway might have been out of malice, but she's not sure.

"If that's the worst this campaign's gonna get, then we're doing OK," Callaham said.

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