Running for office? Watch where you post your signs

The 2017 campaign season is heating up and Tri-City roundabouts are proving particularly enticing spots to plant signs.

In Kennewick, roundabouts are filling in with signs touting not only political candidates, but yard sales and pest removal services.

The problem is, they’re illegal and Kennewick is starting to step up enforcement of codes that ban all signs on public property. That includes those tantalizing roundabouts.

Thursday, the city will mail a reminder about the sign rules to political candidates. The letter is an annual rite for the city’s planning department but is coming a bit early this year.

Two city council races will hold primaries in August owing to the large number of candidates, including six in the race for the at-large seat being vacated by Councilman Bob Parks. That’s contributing to the clutter.

“People are getting out a little earlier this year,” said Evelyn Lusignan, the city’s spokeswoman. “They’re turning up in places they don’t belong, such as roundabouts.”

Each of the Tri-Cities has different rules for temporary signs such as those placed by political campaigns. Kennewick and Richland ban them outright on public property while Pasco allows them, but with the requirement they not obstruct views for drivers.

People are getting out a little earlier this year. They’re turning up in places they don’t belong, such as roundabouts.

Evelyn Lusignan, Kennewick spokeswoman

Kennewick’s roundabout problem is particularly pronounced on South Union Street.

Jim Millbauer, one of the six candidates for Parks’ city council seat, is one of many who mistakenly thought it was legal to place signs in roundabouts. He said a candidate advisory from Benton County seemed to suggest the placement was no problem. He took comfort in the fact he wasn’t alone.

“They’re all out there,” he said, adding, “I’ll get on it and correct it.”

Christy Watts, a candidate for the same position, said she only has a few signs in rights of way, including roundabouts.

On learning it’s not allowed, she promised to pull them out. She said she was even a bit relieved to learn public property is off limits because it means her many competitors have to do the same.

Generally, signs may be placed on private property with permission from owners so long as they do not block views for driver. They may also be placed between a street and sidewalk if they don’t block visibility and the abutting property owner agrees.

Lusignan said Canal Drive is another area that generates a lot of questions and concerns. The land bordering Canal to the north is owned by BNSF Railway, not the city.

Lusignan said city will remove signs in rights of way. Unlike years past, it will not store them until they can be retrieved. The city doesn’t have the resources to manage it and doesn’t believe it is a proper function for taxpayer-funded activities.

“Any signs in the public right of way will be removed and disposed of,” she said.

Signs are also prohibited on utility poles in all jurisdictions. Any signs posted elsewhere must be removed within seven days of the election.