LAKE STEVENS — Leaders of this lakeside community have been talking about big campaign signs for years.
Questions about oversized election ads were posed to the Lake Stevens City Council in 2016, but no action was taken.
Then last month, some who live in the city shared concerns about the size of mayoral candidate Brett Gailey’s campaign signs. The 4-by-8 foot posters didn’t follow city rules, they said. Gailey maintained that the code was unconstitutional according to a 2015 U.S. Supreme Court ruling.
Last week, the city council voted 4-3 to change the code so it can be enforced. Gailey, an Everett police officer, is on the council and voted against the change.
When Gailey started to campaign, he asked city planners if he could post the larger signs.
“I don’t like little signs everywhere,” Gailey said. He wanted to post fewer but bigger ones.
He was given the OK, he said.
That’s when residents started to complain, and Gailey brought up the ruling in Reed vs. Town of Gilbert, where a federal court found that regulating signs based on their message violated the First Amendment.
Lake Stevens officials conceded their rules violated the law by including specific guidelines for political signs.
On Aug. 7, the council voted to apply interim rules to all temporary signs — banners, sandwich boards, posters, fliers with stakes in the ground and others made of lightweight material.
At the meeting, Councilmember Rauchel McDaniel said she worried about small businesses and other organizations, such as the food bank. It’s raising money to move locations and has posted a sign showing how much has been donated.
“Does that mean the food bank is going to have to remove its sign?” McDaniel asked. “That would be very unfortunate.”
McDaniel hopes those kinds of groups don’t have to get rid of expensive signs they may have purchased.
It wasn’t clear by Tuesday evening how the city would enforce the new rules.
McDaniel was on the council when the sign debate was brought up a few years ago. She wishes the council had taken care of the issue the first time.
Gailey also wonders about the timing.
“The question is why now? Why in this campaign are (the rules) being enforced?” Gailey said.
He planned to take his signs down soon.