GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Roadside signs promoting candidates are as much a part of politics as shaking hands and kissing babies.
There’s nothing illegal about the signs in Kent County as long as they’re 15 feet from the edge of the pavement and 150 feet from an intersection.
Inevitably, some signs are placed in violation of the rules and have to be removed. In the last few weeks, business has picked up for road crews who collect signs deemed a traffic hazard. The confiscated signs are stacked up at the four Kent County Road Commission workyards.
There are signs for businesses in the mix as well.
“Phone repair. Got Vines? — I don’t really know what that means,” Road Commission Deputy Managing Director of Operations Jerry Byrne said as he pulled some nonpolitical signs from the pile.
Still, the vast majority are for politicians and causes on the November ballot.
“I would say 80% of them right now are political. The rest are something for sale,” Byrne said. “We support the process and the country we live in. What we don’t support is hampering public safety.”
All the signs confiscated were found too close to an intersection and often too packed together.
“Vision is out biggest concern. Stack a half a dozen signs at that intersection, you’re reducing visibility at that intersection,” Byrne said.
Even small, yard-size signs can cause blind spots.
“You’re in a smaller car, it’s at your eye height and if the motorcycle, pedestrian, scooter, whatever, (pulls up), you’re going to be behind that sign for a couple of seconds,” Byrne said. “It also is a distraction. … You should be driving, you shouldn’t be reading signs when you’re at an intersection.”
Byrne stressed it’s about safety, not politics.
“And it doesn’t really matter if it’s Democrats or Republican,” Byrne said.
That hasn’t stopped some office-seekers from crying foul on the road commission.
“Some of the accusations are, ‘You’re only targeting our group.’ It’s like, come down and show me where? Because I think we have everybody’s,” Byrne said.
It’s hard for county road crews, who are busy getting ready for the winter season, to keep up.
“The army of folks putting these out far outnumbers our people. So we have people out doing it daily, but we’re not going to have 150 people doing it every single day,” Byrne said. “Could we? Probably. But we’re not going to.”