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Publish Date: 10/25/2005

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Longmont city clerk Valeria Skitt sorts election signs Monday in the Longmont Civic Center parking garage. Times-Call/Kristin Goode

Everywhere a sign
Campaign advertisements fall victim to clerk, others enforcing Longmont rules


LONGMONT — A mysterious woman seen driving around the city in a silver minivan and stealing campaign signs has been identified by the Daily Times-Call.

She is Longmont city clerk Valeria Skitt.

“Yes, it is me,” Skitt said Monday as she unloaded yet more illegally placed campaign signs from the back of her Mazda van.

For more than a week, rumors have been circulating about a woman trying to hurt certain candidates by selectively targeting and stealing their signs. At last week’s City Council meeting, Lesia Bingham tried to publicly shame the sign-stealer.

“A woman in a silver van was seen pulling out a Tom McCoy sign and driving away,” Bingham said. “It’s deplorable.”

But in the dark parking garage beneath the Longmont Civic Center lies the truth: Skitt and city code workers are equal-opportunity enforcers.

There, dozens of signs belonging to a slew of candidates and issue committees lay neatly sorted, waiting for them to be collected by their owners.

Five of McCoy’s handmade signs sit a few feet away from 13 signs supporting incumbent Mayor Julia Pirnack. There also are six signs for Glenn Spagnuolo. Les Pierce, the fourth mayoral candidate, has no signs.

Along with other locations, city law prohibits signs being placed in medians or on the grassy strips between streets and detached sidewalks.

Yard signs can be a cost-effective way of generating and showing local support for a campaign or candidate: Having hundreds of signs blanketing lawns indicates backing from those homeowners.

But when campaigns are paying sometimes up to $5 a sign, losing even a few makes a dent in the treasury.

Most local elections are conducted with little spending, and in Longmont, most of the candidates are not taking contributions.

“I’ve had a number of them go missing,” said McCoy, who is seeking a promotion from councilman to mayor. “It’s kind of disappointing, because I put a lot of effort into making them myself.”

As he has for all of his 22 years in public office, McCoy is not taking campaign contributions, so the loss of any of his approximately 20 handmade signs is significant, he said.

At the other end of the spectrum is Pirnack, who said she’s had about 50 signs taken down.

“They’re getting stolen left and right,” she said. “We just keep replacing them. We’ve had lots of money stolen in the form of yard signs.”

As of Oct. 8, Pirnack’s campaign reported spending a little more than $1,000 on yard signs.

Both McCoy and Pirnack are veteran campaigners — this is Pirnack’s third race — and say they are clear on the rules regarding where signs can be placed.

Under city rules, property owners may remove signs placed on their property without permission. And Skitt and code-enforcement officers remove signs placed illegally on public property, such as medians, without informing the candidates.

Skitt said she returns signs — along with a warning — to candidates, if they call her. She said the candidates themselves are usually good about following the rules.

“But they also give them to friends,” Skitt said.

Trevor Hughes can be reached at 303-684-5220, or by e-mail at thughes@times-call.com.

Property owners may remove and throw away any campaign signs placed on their property without permission.

In general, campaign signs should be 5 feet away from the edge of a sidewalk that is attached to the curb. Signs also may not be placed in the green area between a curb and sidewalk, where sidewalks are not attached to a curb.

City workers will remove campaign signs posted in the public right-of-way when complaints are made. Neither property owners nor candidates will be told before the signs are taken down.

Rules for freestanding signs in residential areas:

Must not be posted on public right-of-way and must be at least 1 foot from the property line.

May be a maximum height of 4 feet.

May not be larger than 8 square feet.

A maximum of one sign per candidate or issue per street frontage is allowed.

Must be removed seven days after an election.

May not be lighted.

Rules for wall signs in residential areas:

May not be posted on the public right-of-way.

May be no higher than 10 feet from the ground to the top of the sign.

May not be larger than 8 square feet.

A maximum of one sign per candidate or issue per street frontage is allowed.

Must be removed seven days after an election.

May not be lighted.

Rules for freestanding signs in non-residential areas:

May not be posted on public right-of-way.

Must be set back from the property line a distance equal to height of the sign.

May be not taller than 10 feet.

May be no larger than 32 square feet.

A maximum of one sign per candidate or issue per street frontage is allowed.

Must be removed seven days after an election.

May not be lighted.

Rules for wall signs in non-residential areas:

May not be posted on public right-of-way.

May be no higher than 10 feet from the ground to the top of the sign.

May be no larger than 32 square feet.

A maximum of one sign per candidate or issue per street frontage is allowed.

Must be removed seven days after an election.

May not be lighted.

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