Reports of sign stealing leads JPD to Assembly candidate

Rules about political signs don’t address putting up signs without permission

A Loretto Jones election sign downtown on Tuesday, Sept. 12, 2017. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Update: The Empire received a statement from an individual who says he saw Loretto Jones pulling out two campaign signs. This article has been updated to reflect this account.

 

A Juneau police officer ended up at the home of a City and Borough of Juneau Assembly candidate Tuesday morning after multiple calls reported stolen campaign signs in downtown.

Brenda Knapp was walking back to her Ninth Street home in downtown Juneau on Monday afternoon when she saw an unknown silver pickup truck in her driveway. When the truck pulled away, Knapp noticed that three of the four campaign signs in her yard were missing, and a sign for District 1 Assembly candidate Loretto Jones stood in the yard — a sign that Knapp did not have there previously.

Knapp got a view of the truck’s license plate and reported it to JPD. Fellow Juneau resident Jonathan Wood was driving down D Street at around the same time, and noticed a truck parked on the street. In a statement to the Empire, Wood said he saw a woman get out of the car and thought she was merely getting dropped off.

“As I was driving around the truck,” Wood said, “I noticed that the female whom had exited the truck was now on the corner pulling out two election campaign signs.”

Wood said he could tell one was a sign for current District 1 Assembly member Jesse Kiehl and he couldn’t tell what the other sign was. Wood then pulled over, got out of his car and took photos of the truck as it drove away. He contacted JPD and told them what he saw and what the licence plate number was (in addition to putting the picture on the neighborhood’s Facebook page) .

The police tracked the license plate number down and found that the truck belonged to Jones, and went to her home Tuesday morning.

Jones denied any wrongdoing to the officer. She told the Empire that she was driving the vehicle at the time when she saw downed campaign signs, including signs for her and Kiehl.

“I was putting signs up and I found a couple of others that were pulled down and some of mine were pulled down,” Jones told The Empire on Tuesday, “so I pulled into a driveway and pounded mine back and pounded Jesse’s back in.”

The officer was satisfied with Jones’ explanation, and no charges were filed. Lt. David Campbell, a spokesman for the department, said “it sounds like the stolen signs and the contacted truck are not related.”

A gray area

Campbell said that someone stealing a candidate’s yard signs without permission could be charged with theft, but the issue of putting a sign up without permission is a bit of a gray area. Campbell said he didn’t know of any law requiring permission to put a sign up on private property, but said it would be “advisable to get permission first.”

Municipal Clerk Laurie Sica also said she doesn’t know of any city regulations that deal with putting signs up without permission. Bruce Botelho, a former Juneau mayor who has a long history of political involvement in town, said putting signs up in yards without permission is a faux pas but probably nothing more.

“I don’t think it rises to the level of crime,” Botelho said, “but it certainly goes against community norms.”

Jones said that she had permission from the houses where she was putting up her signs Monday, but Knapp said she did not intend to have a sign for Jones in her yard. Knapp said that of the four signs she had in her yard for the Oct. 3 election — one for Kiehl, Areawide Assembly candidate Maria Gladziszewski, District 2 Assembly candidate Rob Edwardson and Board of Education candidate Jeff Short — only the Edwardson sign remained after Jones’ truck drove away.

She contacted Kiehl, who said he would bring her another sign. Kiehl said it’s “sad” that someone would take campaign signs down, but he’s planning on just putting them back up and continuing with his campaign.

Knapp said she isn’t too bothered by it happening, but said that in 31 years of putting campaign signs up in her yard in Juneau, she’s never had a sign appear in her yard without her putting it there.

“It’s not fair to the candidates to do that kind of thing,” Knapp said. “We want people to volunteer for community service. They do a lot of fundraising so they can buy signs and other paraphernalia.”

Did You Know? General political sign guidelines

Juneau residents are more than welcome to display their support for candidates, but there are certain rules and regulations for political signs, according to CBJ Ordinanace 49.45.300.

For example, people can have signs on private property of up to 32 square feet, but the signs are not allowed to move, rotate or flash. The signs are also not allowed to imitate traffic signs or signals, and are forbidden from obstructing drivers’ views.

Signs are allowed on licensed, functional motor vehicles, but the primary use for the vehicle can’t be to display such signs. So, a bumper sticker is allowed, but repurposing a car for the purpose of promoting a candidate is not.

Residents are allowed to put up their campaign signs at any point until the Oct. 3 election now, but are required to take their signs down within five days after the election.

The state Department of Transportation forbids political signs from being on, adjacent to or even within sight of state-maintained highways and right-of-ways. These roads include Egan Expressway, Glacier Highway, Marine Way, Ferry Way, Thane Road, Douglas Highway, North Douglas Highway, Mendenhall Loop Road, Fritz Cove Road, Mendenhall Peninsula Road and Engineer’s Cutoff Road.


• Contact reporter Alex McCarthy at alex.mccarthy@juneauempire.com.


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