Political signs start returning to Shady Cove

Campaign signs snatched from Shady Cove lawns on Monday began going back up Friday morning after the City Council unanimously approved an emergency resolution that exempts political signs from fee requirements.

Thursday's resolution is a temporary fix to the city's aging sign ordinance, adopted in 1994, that requires all signs to have a $25 permit. Also exempted from fees are other temporary signs, such as real estate, rental and yard-sale signs.

In addition to providing exemptions, the resolution states that all signs must be "of professional quality" and that all other existing sign regulations remain in force until the city's ordinance is amended.

The city's Planning Commission has been working on a replacement sign ordinance since January, and commission member Ed Mayer said he expects the ordinance to include the exemptions found in the emergency resolution. Before the council voted, however, Mayer warned that the commission would not be able to finish its work before the primary election on May 15, and he suggested that council pass a temporary fix that would return political signs to the public.

"There was never an attempt to deny political signs," said Mayor Ron Holthusen. "The current ordinances are murky and they need to be cleaned up. We've had an awkward situation here, and the council has taken action to remedy it and make things right."

The council offered full support to Community Service Officer Barry Moore, who began enforcing the sign ordinance by removing political yard signs that didn't have a permit after the Jackson County Sheriff's Department received a citizen complaint that campaign signs within the city had been illegally posted.

Moore brought along a permit application and gave residents two hours to submit it before he began collecting signs. Each sign was stored and catalogued by address.

"From a law enforcement standpoint," Holthusen said, "they're in a situation where the law is the law and they have an obligation to apply that law evenly."

"It wasn't just a snap decision," Holthusen added. "He was thoughtful about it, went through the ordinances, and was in contact with his superiors at the Sheriff's Department. In their estimation, looking at the ordinance, a case can be made that those signs were subject to a fee. That's what it says.

"I think from our viewpoint, he did what we expect him to do, enforce our ordinances. I know this has been tough for him, and I think he was really embarrassed about the dust up over this."

City Administrator Danise Brakeman said because the sign ordinance was in the process of being corrected, she hadn't wanted to enforce the permit requirement for political signs, but on Monday she was away from the city.

"It can be argued that our deputy should have called the city manager for clarification," said Councilman Jim Ulrich, "but I firmly believe that in this case it was act of commission, not omission. He did not avoid a problem, but rather he committed himself to addressing the problem."

Councilman Leith Hayes agreed.

"I want to be sure that none of this reflects poorly on our CSO," Hayes said. "He is certainly one of the top assets in our city."

After the vote, Brakeman said the signs would be returned right away. Councilman Bill Kyle asked whether Moore worked on Fridays.

Brakeman said he did not, but "he's indicated that he has a desire to."

Moore was in on Friday, unpaid and wearing civilian clothes.

Brakeman said any signs that Moore is unable to return Friday will be returned Monday.

"He wants to do this and said it was the right thing to do," she said. "He really feels badly about this."

Writer Bill Miller lives in Shady Cove. Reach him at newsmiller@live.com.

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