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When is a Campaign Sign Not a Campaign Sign?

By Erica C. Barnett August 14, 2009

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These city-funded signs have started popping up all over my neighborhood, just in time for the tough mayoral primary election. They give Mayor Greg Nickels credit for "keeping Seattle moving."

From the size to the style to the design, they look an awful lot like the ubiquitous campaign signs that also dot the area—like, say, these Greg Nickels signs (and all the other campaign signs in front of them):

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When I called to ask who was paying for the signs, the mayor's office referred me to the Seattle Department of Transportation, whose spokesman, Rick Sheridan, told me the agency started using the campaign-style (technical term: "A-Frame") signs in late July to mark smaller projects, like sidewalks (as opposed to bigger projects like the Burke-Gilman trail, which has a larger, more permanent). Sheridan said the city has put out about 20 of the signs, which are paid for with funds from the 2006 Bridging the Gap transportation levy.

Ethics and Elections Commission director Wayne Barnett says that as long as the signs are put up "in the normal course of business," they don't constitute a campaign contribution; however, the signs have sprouted most conspicuously in the final days of the campaign.
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