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Sign skirmish in bond debate

Supporters of the Clarkston Schools $20 million bond proposal posted signs on Dixie Highway last weekend, before Independence Township’s sign ordinance said they could. Photo provided (click for larger version)
April 25, 2012 - With three weeks left in the $20 million school bond campaign, bond opponents called out supporters for putting up signs before their time.

"These signs were placed before they were legally allowed," said Henry Woloson, member of the group, referring to "Vote Yes" signs placed on private property on Dixie Highway over the weekend.

According to Independence Township's sign ordinance, political signs "may be erected 14 days prior to an election."

Independence Township Superintendent Bart Clark said he and the township zoning enforcement officer are checking into it.

"We'll look into it to see what we need to do," Clark said.

Mary Herzenstiel, president of the pro-bond group Clarkston Kids First, said they did not intend to violate Independence Township's sign ordinance when they put up the signs during a sign distribution meeting.

With further research, however, they found the sign ordinance is on shaky ground anyway, Herzenstiel said.

"The United States Supreme Court and the Michigan Supreme Court has consistently favored speech when balancing the First Amendment with virtually any restriction," she said.

It has also not been applied consistently in Independence Township, she found.

In 2004, Supervisor Dale Stuart said the township doesn't aggressively enforce the political sign ordinance.

"It's really a touchy subject," he said in an Oct. 27, 2004, Clarkston News article, "Officials not concerned with federal court ruling over political sign ordinances."

In the article "No political signs before their time," July 9, 2008, edition of the Clarkston News, Supervisor Dave Wagner said the sign ordinance would be enforced, with signs posted before the 14-day limit removed.

Either way, the issue is a distraction, Herzenstiel said.

"We don't want to take the focus off the kids," she said.

CRISIS, Citizens for Responsible, Intelligent, Spending In Schools, a group not in favor of the $20 million bond, had signs posted last week in Springfield Township but not in Independence Township.

"The CRISIS group has done their best to follow the letter of the law regarding our political sign and placement laws," said Henry Woloson, group member.

Springfield Township's sign ordinance says campaign signs can be put up 28 days before an election.

Following the sign ordinance, CRISIS members put up their signs in Independence Township on Tuesday this week.

They also reported two of their signs stolen in Springfield Township. Oakland County Sheriff's deputies assigned to Springfield Township Substation are checking into it.

"No suspects have been identified at this time," said Det. Matt Howe.

Phil is editor for The Clarkston News. He is a veteran of the first Iraq war, having served in the U.S. Army.
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