Friday, October 1, 2004
Kerry/Edwards signs targets of vandals, town regulations
Over the past two weeks, eighteen of thirty-five signs set up by the Democratic Town Committee (DTC) to promote the Kerry/Edwards ticket have been vandalized. Modeled on a well-remembered promotion by Burma Shave in the 1950s, the signs are in a series of four so that together they make a rhyme, for example, "If you think . . . Bush is scary . . . Cast your vote . . . For Edwards/Kerry." The committee has also been asked by police to remove the signs from the town's right-of-way, prompting member Kathy Coyle to respond, "Why our signs and not others?"
Coyle notes the committee was looking for a humorous and unique way to get the attention of voters. "We had a lot of fun doing it," she says, but adds, "it was a lot of work." The signs were hand-stenciled and homeowners were contacted for permission. "To find five hundred feet of consecutive Democrats is not an easy task." The committee also consulted with Building Inspector Bob Koning and was told there would be no problem with placing the signs along roadways.
According to Coyle, on Monday September 20, the Carlisle Police told her the signs were illegal and must be moved. They cited Chapter 10.3.1 of the town regulations stating that no signs can be posted in the town right-of-way without Selectmen approval.
Fearing that if the signs were moved back they would become invisible, the Democrats met Thursday, September 23, and drafted a letter to the Selectmen asking them to approve the existing placement. The draft letter noted other political signs were allowed to remain in restricted areas. Coyle believes Democrats may have been targeted, she notes, as signs for Carlisle's favorite son, candidate for state representative Republican Doug Stevenson, who is also a Selectman, stay (as do signs for Democratic candidate Cory Atkins).
Around the time of the notification, the serial signs began to be vandalized at night, with many driven over by car and some pulled up. Of thirty-five signs, eighteen have been vandalized and six were destroyed. At the same time, Coyle began getting early morning hang-up calls at times like 1:15 a.m. and 4:30 a.m. If related, these calls may provide a lead, as some are now being traced through *57. In addition, the police are patrolling the signs in the hopes of catching someone in the act of vandalism.
Police Chief Galvin was unavailable for comment. Selectman Chair Tim Hult noted he was not aware of any complaint from townspeople regarding the signs, but Town Clerk Charlene Hinton said two people appeared at Town Hall to complain. One felt the signs were "tacky" and the other believed the DTC should have been identified as the source of the signs. Hult said the Selectmen would like to avoid getting involved, "In theory, the bylaws say [the signs] shouldn't be there, but there are signs all over the place." He added, "I'm worried about where there might be some safety issues" such as on South Street where the This Old House site is already a driving distraction, and the serial signs may further reduce attention to the road. Hult dismissed concerns the policy unfairly targets Democrats, "The concern is safety . . . this has nothing to do with Doug."
Coyle says the Democratic Town Committee will pursue the issue as a matter of freedom of speech. They will ask the Selectmen to approve the signs at their meeting on October 5.
© 2004 The