By Jim Newell
With the Nov. 6 general election a mere two weeks away, campaign signs are sprouting up all over the Orion landscape.
And the rivalry between those who support the Lake Orion Community Schools proposed $160 million bond and those who are opposed to it seems to be taking a turn toward gamesmanship – someone is removing the Serving Our Students group’s pro-bond signs.
“We estimate that we have lost about two dozen of the YES signs since they are not where they had been put out. This has happened in all areas of the school district and is not necessarily more heavily concentrated in any area,” said Jake Singer, one of the leaders of SOS.
Singer isn’t the only who has noticed the missing signs. School board President Scott Taylor has posted on social media that SOS group’s signs are disappearing and has asked that they be left alone.
“We don’t know who is taking the YES signs and are not going to make accusations in the absence of proof, since we are proud of being a group that sticks to the facts,” Singer said. “Thus, the only thing we can do about the thefts is to try even harder to get the message out there about how this proposal will make our schools ‘Safer, Smarter and Stronger’ and enhance our property values without increasing the annual tax rate.”
Lt. Dan Toth, commander of the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office Orion Twp. Substation, said taking campaign signs is a violation of the law.
“Yes, a 90-day misdemeanor. It is essentially someone’s property of value that is stolen by another person with intent. People are watching, and people also have video surveillance,” Toth said.
Political signs also cannot be placed on someone’s property without their permission.
“A few signs were returned to the address listed on the sign by an entity that informed us that they owned some property alongside a roadway which we initially thought was a public right of way,” Singer said.
Orion Township also has sign ordinances, but Singer said so far that none of the group’s signs have been in violation of township restrictions, as far as he knows.
“In the past, signs taken by Orion Township for ordinance violations, mainly for being improperly located in a right of way, are placed outside the Township Hall dumpster. Orion Township confirmed they would be handling it similarly this year, but we have not been able to retrieve any YES signs from that location despite checking on a daily basis,” Singer said.
The Michigan Dept. of Transportation (MDOT) also has regulations on the placement of political signs to prevent improperly placed signs from creating safety hazards and interfering with a driver’s vision along roadways.
Political candidates are responsible for obtaining approval from the property owner to place the signs. Signs must be removed within 10 days following an election.
Signs must be more than 30 feet from the edge of the roadway (white line) for highways that do not have barrier-type curbs. For highways with barrier curbs, the signs must be more than three feet from the back of the curb.
Signs are not permitted within areas used for clear vision at intersections or commercial driveways, so they will not interfere with the sight distance of a driver. No signs may be placed within the limited access rights-of-way.
Any illegally placed signs will be removed. Signs removed by MDOT crews will be kept for seven days at a local MDOT office or maintenance garage, then discarded.