Not Very Democratic

Love ’em (as a sign of our vibrant political system) or hate ’em (as visual pollution), political signs are part of our landscape.

Because we have a (small-“d”) democratic process, they’re allowed to stand. In Westport, they’re legal on public property.

So — whether you support the (large “D”) Democratic candidates for first selectmen, or the Republican — you should be outraged at the sight this morning on the Sherwood Island Connector:

(Photo/Peter Propp)

(Photo/Peter Propp)

Political signs are also, of course, allowed on private property.

Word on the street is that a Garten/Kane sign was stolen recently from someone’s front lawn.

Well, not just anyone’s.

It was Helen Garten’s own yard.

If we decide, as a town, that we don’t like political signs, we can ban (or regulate) them.

We can’t, however, deface them. Or take them.

It’s not the democratic — or the Democratic, or Republican — way.

53 responses to “Not Very Democratic

  1. The Republican nominees should get a clean set of signs and put them back up for Helen and Melissa.

  2. Ann Marie Flynn

    Thank you, Dan. This is a much needed write-up…..and the destroying/taking of the signs should not be dismissed with “Well, it’s just another election year”. And, if members of the opposing party are doing the damage, it makes me wonder where their heads and hearts are at??

  3. We deplore any theft or vandalism of any property.

    Saturday night, dozens of Marpe / Kaner signs were stolen and replaced with Garten / Kane signs, on private property. One of the kids actually posted a photo of the stolen signs on his Instagram. He is a member of the Young Democrats Club at Staples. Dr. Landon was immediately notified and he will be disciplined at school today. Jim Ezzes, chairman of the Democratic party, was also notified yesterday. I personally called the boy’s father, and he has not returned my call. We want to get all the facts before pointing fingers.

    • Not sure why this is a school issue.
      Undoubtedly a good “teachable moment,” but why should the school be disciplining the alleged perp for something that was done over the weekend off school grounds. Our schools are there to educate, not be a catch all disciplinarian for out of school problems.

      • It’s a school club that was involved John, at least it appeared to be the case, so the RTC sought to pursue resolution through that channel. In any event, the fact that the RTC sought to resolve a documented (via pictures) case of campaign sign destruction through private, non-public channels is actually quite laudable in my book – they could have instead chosen to send the instagram straight to the media or a local blog and gotten much more “see how dirty the other side is” mileage out of it, for instance . . . .

        Let’s just all agree that there are and always will be a predictable (albeit very small) number of over-zealous individuals from both parties who do things to campaign signs during election season. I know of one such person who intentionally knocks down / removes campaign signs regardless of party, because s/he loathes the eyesore-blight these signs represent to him/her. And then there is the fact that signs on public lawns all get taken down (and left in a pile) by the Town’s grass cutting crews, leading some to attribute this to campaign vandalism too.

        We (P&Z) can’t regulate these campaign signs since they represent free speech, and maybe we shouldn’t. But (and I have said this before) maybe there is something to be gained (in terms of treating the townspeople with respect, the very same people we hope to serve) by coming together and reaching a gentlemens’ agreement on the period of time these campaign signs are up, their size, and dare I say perhaps even their number (per candidate). Since we have non-partisan RTM signs being posted too, and other parties in the mix as well, I would suggest that the terms of any such agreement be made well-known so that such others would also feel obliged to abide too. Just throwing that out there.

  4. Years ago I asked the Town Chairs of both parties to agree on sign regulations. Nothing happened. We should have a start date, perhaps September 15th, and an agreement on size. Size is important as Stamford now has “monster signs” that measure 4 feet by 8 feet. And of course, we should have a stop date as to when signs should be removed.

  5. Have any of the Republicans signs been defaced?

  6. The MarpeKaner Campaign and the Westport RTC do not condone this type of behavior and have instructed our supporters over the years, and this year, as such.
    Over the weekend it came to our attention that a young person in town stole countless MarpeKaner signs and publicized it on instagram. Before casting aspersions we proceeded in a prudent manner to gain all the facts. Which we are still doing. We did not go to the press or the police. Rather we forwarded the instagram post to the school system and tried to contact the young person’s parents.

    • Just to clarify, was it dozens of signs or countless signs? Was it the same alleged perpetrator that did this (per Mr Zappi), or more than one (per Mr Kaner)? Does the Instagram show all of the dozens/countless signs? Is the posting of an Instagram, evidence of the alleged acts, or simply evidence that someone posted a picture? I could go on.

      Before we rush to judgment on anything, we need to filter out the supposition from the real evidence.

      We can all agree that whoever the perpetrator(s), this type of activity is inappropriate, unacceptable and not good for the democratic process.

      I would only add that the negative campaigning we all saw in our mailboxes this weekend from the RTC is the most unimaginative and intellectually bankrupt nonsense that I have seen in a long time. I struggle to discern the difference this conduct and the subject matter of this blog.

  7. This isn’t really all that surprising– there has always been an air of unprofessional, pedantic behavior in Westport when it comes to politics. I can almost imagine now, the Lacoste polo rumpling as the khaki-wearing, topsiders-without-socks despite the cold, middle-to-late aged Westporter smugly picks up a can of spray paint from Ace Hardware and while smirking to himself, the entitled shmuck likely spray painted those signs with pride. Embarrassed pride, I hope. This is so sad and if it were just children being fools and vandals it could be ‘forgiven’. But not this.

  8. When I saw the headline of this morning’s blog entry I thought it was about the Marpe/Kaner signs being removed! The instagram photo of Marpe/Kaner signs in what appears to be the trunk of a car with the comment #campaignthugging was widely seen by the Staples High School community yesterday. (Someone in the Young Republicans club emailed the club asking not to retaliate, that it is illegal). Any more instagrams taking credit?

  9. Russell Beitman

    Saturday night I was one of the victims of stolen Marpe/Kaner signs from my property along North Avenue. My signs were replaced with Garten/Kane signs. I understand it was someone in the young Democratic party of Westport. It would not surprise me if this youngster was simply following orders.

  10. Mr. Beitman …why spew conjecture. It is horrendous that anyone would deface or steal campaign signs whether or not they are Democrats, Republicans or Independents. This they did this and they said that type of politics is getting old. Focus on the issues…run a clean and honorable campaign and may we let the election process proceed with some level of dignity.

  11. Stephanie Bass

    …the country has been fighting half-assed wars for 10 years, the Obama administration has made the good idea of health coverage for everyone a joke and somewhere in the past, Molly Davis had a reallly bad experience w/ a LaCoste Polo rumpled, etc. guy –LET’S GET A GRIP. With all this highly focused Westport rage, let’s channel the energy and fix some big problems.

  12. Once again Avi Kaner is misrepresenting. I was never notified by Avi Kaner or Bob Zappi about signs being removed. I have checked both of my answering machines, my cell phone voice mail, email (both personal and and caller id on both my office and home phones. No calls were received or messages left. And to say or infer that Helen Garten, Melissa Kane or myself were directing people is simply not true. All of the hard working young people have been told repeatedly that no signs from either party are to touched. This is just another negative attack by Mr. Kaner. To see how the Garten/ Kane signs were defaced is shocking.
    Jim Ezzes
    Democratic Town Chairman

  13. For those keeping score, the signs in the picture are on State of Connecticut property AND they block the sight lines to view traffic when one is trying to exit the Public Works and Transfer Station. Just remember campaigning is more important than safety. Is there any chance both parties could not post the yard signs in such hazardous locations?

  14. Jim Ezzes – here is a copy. Desiree Soli is sending it to you again. Meanwhile I’m sure the Westport Police is reviewing video by the transfer station.

    Hello Jim,

    A member of the Staples Young Democrats club posted this on Instagram.
    We are investigating the extent and how pervasive this problem is.
    If you have a conduit to the Staple Young Democrats please remind them that is activity is unlawful. We are doing the same.

    Thank you,
    Desiree Soli

  15. The Republicans have exhibited their true colors throughout this campaign, in this case overtly, with red spray paint. At least they have been exposed for self authoring letters and spamming the newspapers. What an insult to the intelligence of the readers and the endorsers who were asked to sign. Not unlike sending your child to school with a parent manufactured paper in pursuit of a better grade. To add to the lack of integrity pie, are the huge nonsensical, repugnant attack adds worthy of the tea party that have been appearing in multiples in my mailbox. “Leadership does matter” as the Marpe/Kaner tagline states, but by example, theirs is an example of unsavory, untrustworthy, bullying politics in action. Westport should not follow their lead.

    • Laura – with all due respect, your attack on us is unwarranted. You do not know who vandalized these signs. It could have been high school students. It could have been members of the opposition trying to solicit sympathy. We just don’t know. The police hopefully will have the answer soon through the video surveillance. We DO however know who participated in stealing dozens of our signs and replacing them with our opponents signs on private property. The perpetrator posted the signs on Instagram. We chose to handle that through the school system to avoid a police record. A public apology is expected. Laura – please feel free to contact me directly if you’d like to talk about this and/or any other issue.

      • Adam Schwartz '75

        @Laura – How in the world can you put a name to what is happening here? That is so unfair. Do you honestly think the entire Westport Republican Party did this or even knew about it? Everyone needs to stop politicizing this story and look at it simply as a crime. How do you know it’s not a Libertarian or Whig who did this? My point, this is simply a crime and no matter what political party the person(s) who did this are they need to be caught and brought to justice. As far as we know this could be a bunch of un-political teenagers trying to have fun.

        And I absolutely love how someone actually was able to insert Obamacare into this discussion! LOL. We went from signs being spray painted to Obamacare. How crazy is that?

  16. A Westporter who asked for anonymity, fearing retribution, writes:

    Of course ALL of those signs in the photo have been placed illegally in violation of Connecticut law on State property. When pointed out to the candidates they don’t seem to care. Are they above the law? I guess. I even posed this thought to one of the probate candidates since s/he works in a legal environment. Again a shrug. If any of them are to uphold any of the Town’s regs (or state), why can’t they do it with the yard signs?

    Please ask those same candidates why their signs are needed on all four corners of an intersection?

    Looking at the spray painting another way, isn’t that person expressing their free speech, too (a common argument of candidates amount the signs)?

  17. Bravo Dan on your editorial! This is the first election I’ve competed in and I have been so impressed by the friendliness and willingness of strangers to listen and discuss the issues. I am appalled at the defacement and removal of signs that the Coalition and others have placed. As a registered Democrat running on a non partisan slate, I invite anyone with an extra Garten/Kane and Marpe/Kaner sign to let me know and I will pick up and plant them on my lawn. If all politics is local, let’s respect the process.

  18. I would like to offer $500 to anyone who discloses who did this and the eventual confirmation. I hope others join me in making this offer bigger to entice someone who knows who did it so we get the truth.

    As a critic of Helen Garten, I am appalled at these actions. We have the best political system and anyone trying to deface these signs needs to learn this is unacceptable. Helen and her team did not deserve this and let’s find out who did it. We should not be fighting over an individual or individuals horrible behavior until we know who did it.

    • John McCarthy

      Whoa, we don’t need vigilantism. If this was a HS kid, disclosing his/her name publicly is a terrible idea. Everyone should rant, rend garments and declare how appalled they are, etc. here on 06880. But put the pitchforks down and let the Westport PD do what they need to do.

  19. Tacky. Also pretty crazy (as in, get a life).

  20. i had 3 off min stloing last week it was bad

  21. they steal every year i tlaked to cops and dont deface pepale signs that is bad

  22. Not everything is what it seems, so don’t be too quick to judge. A few years ago, my own campaign signs kept disappearing off my own property. I finally caught the person who was stealing my signs… an elderly gentleman with Alzheimer’s who had a “thing” for campaign signs. There is no reason to get up in arms about this sign issue. It’s not the end of the world.

  23. i agree with john about this i work cam along time both sides do it i am running district 9

  24. I am the one who took Jim Marpe’s campaign signs and then posted them on Instagram. My actions were mine and mine alone. They were wrong, extremely wrong in fact. As kids in my generation are often apt to do, I used social media to incriminate myself. I made matters worse than they needed to be. I am so very sorry to the damage that my actions have caused to either Jim or Avi.

    However is this the way to deal with things? It is time we take a step back from politics and realize that this is a municipal election. This is not Washington and I am not a politician who has consented to having his name defaced on the comments of an online blog. I am a student. Moreover, I am a teenager. I make mistakes. I acknowledge those mistakes in the hopes that we can move on from this fiasco and look at what is important for this town. We should be looking at policy rather than attacking candidates. We must highlight the differences between Helen and Jim’s approaches. We need to move on and play fair. Both candidates are wonderful people who I have no doubt would make great leaders for this town.

    I have spent this day in fear. I have been attacked online by people I do not know. I have not been contacted once by my accusers. I have been in and out of class, unable to focus, dealing with life in crisis mode. I sit here in the Library Learning Commons at Staples High school disillusioned with the political process as a whole. I see how partisan our federal government has become and am frightened at the prospect that petty politics has made its way to Westport…

    Let’s move on from this. No police. No personal attacks. Just apologies and policy.

    I was in no way responsible for the Garten/Kane signs that were defaced and placed on state property.

    If Mr. Kaner wishes to contact me he can do so directly. If anyone wants to talk, let’s talk. I will gladly reveal my identity to any legitimate party, but put the pitchforks down so that we can do so in a reasonable and mature manner.

    Also, I was in no way responsible for the Garten/Kane signs that were defaced and placed on state property. I hope that we may get to the bottom of that as soon as possible.

    Lastly, the administration has chosen not to reprimand me as this is not a school issue. It is a town issue. For everyone’s sake I hope that we all can come to terms with this and begin focusing on moving this great town forward.

    I am deeply sorry.

    • Adam Schwartz '75

      Sorry, pal, it doesn’t work that way. You aren’t in Kindergarten anymore. You committed a crime and now you need to man-up and pay the consequences. It doesn’t matter what grade you’re in, you committed a crime. All of your political ranting doesn’t matter. You’re simply trying to put up a smoke screen and hide the fact you committed a crime. Life is a path of choices and you made a bad one. Time to pay for your bad decision and learn from it for next time.

      And I accept your apology….. Now go down to the police station after school and do the right thing.

    • Thank you Anonymous. This was probably one of the more mature postings to this blog.

  25. the kid did the right thing i was just saying it happend to me so lets se what happens i had the kid is trying

  26. i hope your ok if you need me i dont what your name my name is sal liccione did they call the cops on this kid does anybody no

  27. I do like Jack Whittles idea of “toning down” on the signs. I’ve had about 7 or so “poached”…most likely by the state or town or a disgruntled non fan of mine. Regardless, this year we are a town on “sign steroids”. They look ugly, we all have too many. I hope in future elections both parties with the help of the town, can find a way to bring our political signs down a notch.

    As for the damage done to Helen Garten and Melissa Kane signs, a cowardly act, hopefully it was just a student making a dumb mistake like the Jim Marpe and Avi Kaner Instagram sign post.

    In the end, this campaign should be about the issues facing our town; Baron’s south, pension reform, municipal department budgets, and taxes. The candidates should be telling us how they stand on these issues and how they plan to implement solutions that will benefit the residents of Westport, not only today but tomorrow as well.

    Jimmy Izzo
    RTM District 3

  28. Stephanie Bass

    To the high school kid: No one is going to physically attack you. You did a dumb prank and made all the adults crazy. Stop with the long speeches and go to the police and say you are sorry. Own it. People will know your name and you will be embarrassed, but that’s how it is in the real world — or should be. Take your medicine now, learn your lesson — don’t vandalize and/or if you do don’t post it — and let’s get back to real issues.

    To the grown ups: Did any of you REALLY think this was anything but a dopey kid?

  29. Why don’t both parties agree to ban political signage once and for all. All candidates will then be on level ground. Who makes up their mind as a voter based on a glut of political signs destined for the landfill? We successfully banned merchant’s plastic bags as an environmental nuisance, why do we allow plastic signs? There is nothing informative about signs brandishing a candidate’s name. The Republicans do not even proclaim party affiliation with all that room on their giant signs. In Westport people read positions and listen to debates to make informed voting decisions.The political signs are just an extraneous annoyance obviously fueling bad behavior. If legally they must exist, make them the same size , the same amount for both parties with designated distribution points on public property and constructed from biodegradable materials. But even at that ideal what is the point? These signs are akin to broadsides in the 19th century when not everyone had access or the means to purchase a newspaper. Political signs that state nothing other than the candidates name are a ridiculously outdated form of communication.

  30. Ann Marie Flynn

    Years ago the “dues” would have been settled behind the barn with a good whipping. Wonder how many of us had to make that trip as a part of “coming of age”. All our halos are tilted at different angles.
    Young man the faster you make the trip downtown, the faster it will be behind you…and life starts anew.
    In some manner, perhaps you did bring the parties together…ever so briefly.

  31. ann you no i fell bad we do need do tone the sign stuff i had 3 stoleing it happens you no election season did they call the cops the dems and rep

  32. Christian T- read my first post. “We deplore any theft or vandalism of any property.” We did not send this story to Dan Woog – someone else did with the photo of defaced signs. Instead we forwarded the Instagram directly to Dr. Landon with the identity of the young adult early Sunday. We did not complain publicly. We did not go to the papers. We did not contact the police. I also called the young adult’s father yesterday – he has not returned my call. The apology above does not even offer to return the signs.

    • Mr Kaner, would you also deplore attack ads such as the one sent out to all Westport voters over the weekend?
      Alternatively please explain how this advances our understanding of what you and your running mate stand for.

  33. Let s/he who made no mistakes in high school throw the first stone

    • Amen…

    • Adam Schwartz '75

      @ Jane – The HUGE advantage this young man has over all of us old timers who were “angels” when we were his age is that kids these days have blogs and all kinds of social tools for almost immediate feedback. When I did something of this nature back in the day I received no feedback at all and lived with it for decades so I learned nothing from what I did wrong. And to make things worst, I had no father at home and my mother was at the bar most of the time so I was on my own to figure out what was right and wrong. This kid gets a much shorted learning curve and gets to make a quick decision to do the right thing. What I would have paid to have something like this happen to me back then…..

  34. Bart Shuldman

    Mr. Hodge—here is what was sent out and it is 100% factual and true. Unfortunately you took a non partisan issue and made it one, but not fair to Avi what you just did:

    WhatHelenSays… WhatHelenDoes…
    I Support the Schools…
    Arbitrarily cuts the School budget by
    $1.4 million in 2009
    $1 million in 2010
    Board of Finance Meeting Minutes, 3/18/09 & 3/23/10
    “Strong reserves are important”…
    Westport News, October 21, 2009
    This election year she wanted to take money from the reserves to artificially lower taxes
    Board of Finance Meeting Video 5/23/13
    Leadership means…sharing
    functions such as software…
    information technology…
    Westport News, October 21, 2009
    Helen voted against combining
    the financial software between the
    town and the schools
    Board of Finance Meeting Minutes 11/14/07
    She’s Bi-partisan…

    Helen consistently voted against a
    vice-chair from the opposite party
    Board of Finance Meeting Minutes

    • Sounds good, she’ll get my vote. Thanks for the valuable info.

    • Mr Shuldman, I did read the attack ad and therefore it was unnecessary for you to repeat the attack ad again. Nonetheless I note that you have taken an opportunity to re-state it.

      However, given Mr Kaner’s silence, perhaps you can explain to me how this attack ad advances the electorate’s understanding of the positions advocated by Mr Kaner and/or Mr Marpe.

  35. Ann Marie Flynn… I remember it to well. We live in different times. This kid made a mistake and he needs to accept the consequence. But he only needs to be accountable to the parties he offended. Like his answer above, he needs to do an equally kind deed and volunteer to do a s@#tload of community service maybe working on meaningful bipartisan causes. They should serve at the requested charities or organizations chosen by the offended candidates. Maybe this might restore a little good faith and a life lesson is taught the hard way.

  36. Stephanie Bass: you nailed it! Dopey kids do dopey things. My goodness, I wouldn’t know how to count the dopey things I have done (some will say continue to do).
    Let’s end this thread. It brings out the worst in campaigns.
    The election for Selectman is between two hard working and decent groups of people who agree on many things. It has been spirited and fair. Let’s keep it that way and not let the silly (but destructive) actions of some kids ruin the process.

  37. This thread has gotten a bit nasty. It is now closed to comments.

  38. This thread is now closed to comments.