Editorial: Yard Signs and Political Speak

It’s that time of year again. You can almost feel it about to arrive. Lurking just around the corner – literally. They are starting to pop up annoyingly. What? You may ask. Political yard signs.

Why is it every year they seem to go up earlier and earlier? Our understanding is that there is, or perhaps was, an unwritten agreement between the Democratic and Republican party leadership in town that they would not place yard signs on public property until two weeks before the election. How we wish they would honor that agreement.

Who among us has not driven around the Lake Avenue circle and almost driven off the road because we are distracted trying to read yard signs? You will find no greater champion of free speech than a newspaper but when does the proliferation of signs morph into something else… pollution or worse, a real hazard?

We would never advocate telling a property owner what they can or cannot do on their property as long as it conforms with appropriate zoning. However, using public property is something else. Using public property for campaign billboards two months before an election is too much.  It is premature to put signs for political campaigns up now, when election day is still almost 50 days away.

We applaud the Democratic and Republican party leaders for asking their candidates to respectfully restrain from placing their signs on public property until two weeks before election day. Any earlier is just too much and we suspect actually works against the candidates.

When the election is over, please take the signs down. If you do not have a plan to get them down, then do not put them up. 

It is remarkable how, within campaigns, these yard signs become such a target for anger and frustration. They engender real problems and, in the heat of battle, campaigns and their well-meaning supporters make emotional mistakes.  It is neither legal nor acceptable to pull up the other campaign’s signs. It can also be dangerous since this sort of behavior is often committed under the cover of darkness by younger drivers. Running from a vehicle across the road at 2:00 a.m. to pull up signs may seem like a good idea at the time. It is not.

We believe that most candidates, and their campaign teams, are involved for the best of reasons and have the best motivations. We understand things get heated somewhere along the way.

Now that we are firmly in the political season – debates will be happening soon – we implore all candidates to run on their record. Tearing your opponent down through negative campaigning or personal attacks is not running on your record or your ideas.

Running a negative campaign never works in Greenwich. Our voters do not tolerate it. After all, when the election is over we all still live in this town and see each other in the grocery store and post office. The intensity of the campaign will have abated but how you greet your neighbor remains.

You will be more successful taking the high road than the low road. It was Mark Twain who said, “Kindness is the language the deaf can hear and the blind can see.”

Yes, we want political debate. We want to know the difference between candidates. We want to make educated decisions about who is going to represent us.

We definitely do not respond to negative campaigning. So we ask those running for office to treat us with the same respect you are asking us to place in you.

This election season, let’s all take a deep breath and remember that, frankly, yard sign “wars” are silly.

Campaigns and elections are not silly.  We have real problems in Connecticut and we are fortunate to have so many who are willing to roll up their sleeves and work hard to help solve them.

Thank you!

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