Sunday 6 September 2009

Willful Damage to Campaign Signs

I know I hear the groans; it is not an exciting topic. However, based on a call from volunteer this morning I think we may have an interesting story on our hands.

I want to preface this with the fact that I do NOT subscribe to the notion that campaign teams do this to one another and I will explain why in a bit. I also want to give some background for readers who are less “politically involved”.

Vandalism and theft of signs happens, it’s a fact of life. The extent of it though seems to vary from election to election. When I ran in Calgary-Elbow in 2007 my campaign experienced very little. In 2008 we had several occurrences that I wrote about here and here.

Yesterday I did a stint in Paul’s campaign office and signs were a hot topic among the volunteers. Partly because the requests keep coming in and they have been working very hard to get them all completed. There a number of people helping with this, I estimate there is a core group of about six who regularly spend every day and weekend (after working full-time jobs) placing signs. Like this young man’s dad.

More and more they have been noticing an increase in signs knocked down, graffiti covered and occasionally gone all together. Now don’t get me wrong, it is not just Paul’s signs, it is happening to all candidates across the board. I just happen to be privy to the inside stories coming from Paul’s campaign.

There are two reasons why I don’t point a finger to the other campaigns and I also quickly discourage others from doing so.

The first is the cost, signs are not cheap. Paul has had to re-order signs twice (thankfully due to popularity, not destruction), a final shipment was picked up just this past Friday.

The second is the volunteers. These people put in countless hours away from family and without remuneration. They construct frames; they drive their own large trucks around on their own dime, most work full-time jobs.

I think all candidates and campaign managers understand these aspects and what goes into this part of a campaign. They understand the cost and they most definitely understand the value of volunteers. Whether you have 15 or 50 they are your backbone of support and truly their time is precious and best spent elsewhere.

The very fact that one of Avalon’s volunteers picked up one our damaged signs and then called us to retrieve it speaks volumes and supports my belief in this.

I guess one could list a third reason… that is just plain ILLEGAL I see that as a “given” and like to believe all candidates are at least above breaking the law.

This brings us to the story; yesterday volunteers shared this unique case to me. (Note: I might be off by a day or so either way these dates).

On August 28th they received a request from a supporter in Palliser for a 4 X 4 sign to be placed on their lawn. The following day it was installed; a two (one sided) signs back to back with three wooden stakes driven into the ground to hold it in place.

Monday, August 31st, the office gets a second call from the supporter. The sign is gone. Not damaged, not broken off at that stakes, but completely gone.

The sign is replaced as it was previously installed, albeit the stakes are driven in a bit further.

Thursday, September 3rd another call from the supporter. It has been stolen yet again. Needless to say the resident is quite upset that someone would come onto their property, not once but twice within five days and steal something right out of their yard.

One has to wonder what goes through a thief’s mind. Do they think they can influence an election outcome by removing a sign? Hardly. Do they think the candidate will be upset by this type of thing? Again, not likely they have far better things to do.

By this point the volunteers are also incredibly ticked that someone could have such little regard to all their hard work. countless hours and the invasion of one of our supporters’ private property; never mind the wasted money on signs that just disappear.

Now I wasn’t privy to the conversation, but as I understand it an agreement was reached between a couple of volunteers and the supporter. The sign would be replaced one more time and volunteers would keep an eye on it.

So it was placed a third time.

This morning I get word from a volunteer that they witnessed the third attempt to steal this sign, not only that; they have video of him fleeing the scene!!!!!!!!!

I have since spoken with this very loyal supporter. I will be picking up the video today and then meeting with the supporter to show it to them.

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