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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Don't take the fun out of elections

By Lee Cataluna
Advertiser Columnist

OK, so they're ugly and insipid and have nothing to do with real issues and the ability of a candidate to do the job, but without those wacky campaign yard signs, local elections would be even more boring.

We need the drama. We want the spectacle. We love the petty beefs.

What would an election be like without accusations of sign-stealing by warring candidates? The snide comments at community forums, the stink letters to the editor, the pilau aspersions on Web sites ... Good fun.

Now, some Democrats have introduced legislation to stem the seeping rash of campaign signs. Give them credit for self-awareness, but nah, what's the fun in introducing sanity into such a kooky Island tradition?

House Bill 2705 and Senate Bill 2219 would limit campaign yard signs to 4 feet by 2 feet and set a maximum of 16 square feet for all signs on a given property. You got that, Mr. Hannemann? Sounds like they had you and your stadium-size banners in mind.

The signs would be required to be 15 feet away from the roadway or attached to a building. That's you too, Mufi, you and the other candidates with buddies who have that magic combination of a roadside house and a redwood fence.

The bills read:

" ... the Legislature finds that the preservation of the appearance, aesthetics, and scenic views of the state provides citizens with increased and more consistent physical and mental health, as demonstrated by numerous studies ... and those who drive in scenic areas not cluttered with buildings and signage have lower frustration."

Listen, if you're sitting in traffic by the Kaonohi overpass, you're going to be frustrated regardless of the name or names on signs all around you. If there are some campaign signs on the fences along the way, at least you know who to call to complain about the gridlock.

The measures also would make sure that candidates can't rent space in people's yards for their signs: "No sign may be posted when a resident or owner of the property has received any payment, fee, or other economic benefit of any sort for the display of the sign."

Aw, come on! Not even a ham? Not even a mahalo case of soda? Tickets to the fundraiser dinner? What's the point of owning a house along a major thoroughfare if you can't leverage the otherwise lousy location?

Don't you hate it when politicians try to be civilized? Just take off the gloves and tangle already. At least we can see who can scrap. Good fun.

Lee Cataluna's column runs Tuesdays, Fridays and Sundays. Reach her at 535-8172 or lcataluna@honoluluadvertiser.com.