Eagle County political parties say sign-stealing a continuing problem
Signs in roundabouts, highway rights of way will be picked up and put in dumpsters
- Signs on private property can be placed at the discretion of the property owner.
- Political signs aren’t allowed in the right of way of highways, and aren’t allowed in roundabouts.
- Defacing, destroying or stealing signs is illegal.
It’s an election year, so yard signs are springing up throughout the valley. For some, those signs are an invitation to commit minor, and ultimately expensive, mayhem.
“We can’t replace them fast enough,” Eagle County Republican Party Chairwoman Kaye Ferry said of political signs.
In Vail, a man was recently cited for the theft of two signs that were on private property near the Interstate 70 West Vail Interchange.
“He thought they were in the public right of way and he had the right to take them,” Vail Police Commander Ryan Kenney said.
The man was issued a summons for theft.
Ferry said the man at first offered to pay the property owner for the signs. The property owner refused, and turned the matter over to the police.
Jennifer Filipowski, the treasurer for the Eagle County Democrats, said signs for that party’s candidates have also disappeared from private property.
Filipowski called the practice “ridiculous and childish” on the part of anyone who does it. But, she added, she believes Republicans have more often violated prohibitions on putting signs in public right of way. She noted that she recently called police to report a family with a young child putting signs in an Eagle roundabout at the intersection of U.S. Highway 6 and Sylvan Lake Road.
For those who steal or deface signs on private property, Filipowski noted that those who are caught can be charged with trespassing, theft and other offenses.
And signs sometimes disappear quickly.
Ferry said Republicans in Pitkin County recently put up large signs supporting President Donald Trump and Sen. Cory Gardner, both Republicans. The signs were big enough that putting them up required putting thick posts into the ground. The signs were gone about 90 minutes after being put up, Ferry said.
Defacing, destroying or stealing signs isn’t unique to this heated election year. Ferry recalled that a number of signs were damaged or taken at a 2016 candidate event at Colorado Mountain College in Edwards.
The person who did the damage was found and given a choice: write a series of apology letters or be turned over to the police. A letter soon appeared in the Vail Daily.
Political signs for years have sprouted in Vail’s roundabouts. Town officials this year decided they all have to come down.
Kenney said police won’t remove signs, leaving the job instead to employees of the Vail Public Works Department.
“We don’t want our guys doing that,” Kenney said. “The look of it is horrible. The town manager agreed, so if we see it, we’ll call public works.”
Those signs are viewed as abandoned property and go into dumpsters, Kenney said.
The town for some time had taken a hands-off approach to roundabout signs. Kenney said that changed a couple of years ago, when the number of signs in the roundabouts interfered with motorists’ sightlines.
“We just want to provide safety to residents,” Kenney said.
Eagle County Sheriff James van Beek said his department has heard “very few” complaints about sign stealing and vandalism. But, he added, his office fielded several complaints “a few years ago” about graffiti on signs.
“Come on,” van Beek said. “You don’t have to like it, but it’s public discourse.”
Eagle Police Chief Joe Staufer said his department has received three reports of political signs being taken over the past two months.
“It appears (the vandalism) is against a single party affiliation,” Staufer said, adding that all the signs taken supported Trump.
“We went through this four years ago,” Staufer added, noting that a large pro-Trump sign on private property in Gypsum was vandalized soon after it was put up.
Staufer asked residents to curb their destructive urges.
“Please respect everyone’s opinion and property,” Staufer said. “While we may disagree, that’s why we live in a democratic republic.”
Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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The Aspen City Clerk’s Office is looking toward the next, next election in 2021 with two council seats and a mayoral race up for a decision, and an added focus on coronavirus safety when early voting begins in February.