Campaign signs at library spark debate

BY ASHLEY D. THOMAS
DAYTONA TIMES

Daytona Beach voters will notice a markedly different voting experience if they choose to vote on city-owned property in Daytona Beach this election cycle.

Bethune-Cookman students flash campaign signs as they wait to vote during the 2012 general election.(ASHLEY D. THOMAS/DAYTONA TIMES)
Bethune-Cookman students flash campaign signs as they wait to vote during the 2012 general election.
(ASHLEY D. THOMAS/DAYTONA TIMES)

Following a complaint concerning campaign signs on property at the Daytona Beach City Island Library precinct during the primary election period, code enforcement has been enforcing a decade’s long statue that states the signs are not to be there. The statue had not been enforced in recent memory.

“I remember the election when I was running. Everybody put their signs up,” Daytona Beach Commissioner Patrick Henry said, asking for clarity on the statue at last week’s commission meeting.

“Since I was a young boy, it’s always been like that,” he continued receiving nods of agreement from at least three other commissioners who also said their campaign signs have been at the precinct.

The complaint
According to Ruth Trager, a candidate for the Zone 1 city commission seat, a complaint was made concerning the signs by her opponent Commissioner Carl Lentz.

“People who are running for public office have always been allowed to display their campaign signs on City Island for as long as I can remember during Election Day and early voting days except for this year,” Trager said, addressing the city commission at the Sept. 3 meeting. “The first two days, there was no problem. Every candidate had their signs out. On the third day around noon, the code enforcement truck came around and started pulling signs out from around the perimeter.”

“This was something decidedly out of the ordinary. Everyone started frantically running to save their signs before the signs were taken.

“If you were not there, they were taken. Early the next morning the code enforcement truck came by and started to pick up all the signs around except the ones that were right in the immediate vicinity of your canopy or table. Everyone again had to scramble.

“I wondered why this was happening,” she continued.

“I had a public records search done and found that this was the insistence of one person – Commissioner Carl Lentz, who for some reason was suddenly against signs on City Island.”

Friendly competition?
Trager bested Lentz during the Aug. 26 primary winning 47.46 percent of the vote. Lentz captured 27.52 percent followed by Andrew Moore, who received 25.02 percent of the vote.

Lentz and Trager are listed on the ballot for Nov. 4.

“The first day or two he had his signs, the next two he did not. Just after code picked up the signs he appeared and said, ‘Don’t you want strict code enforcement?’ to some people.

Within an hour after candidate signs were taken, Governor (Rick) Scott arrived at the Chamber of Commerce building. His staff erected 42 signs,” she added.

Trager addressed the commission asking for an exemption to the statue for those seeking office. She asked for signs to be allowed on City Island or any other designated polling place with the condition that the signs be removed every night.

“All the other precincts, even churches allow people to put signs on their property on Election Day,” Mayor Derrick Henry added to the conversation. “I personally think we should allow signs on the day of election just as other precincts do. I would rather be consistent with what everybody else does. That’s my personal opinion.”

Lentz responds
“I did as Mrs. Trager commended me for enforcing our code,” Lentz said during his comment period. “I appreciate you saying that, thank you very much. At the end of the day, I’m not going to knowingly go and take a sign and stick it in a public piece of property because it is against our code. I think all of us are up here and we all believe in consistent code enforcement. When you get a sign permit from the City of Daytona Beach, you sign a short list of things that says ‘I will not put a sign on public property.’ So I’m not willing to violate that. For those who want to violate the code, so be it.  We can’t do anything more than enforce the code.”

He continued, “If we are going to change the policy, let’s change the policy. I don’t have a problem with the policy adjustment. What I do have a problem with is me personally not being willing to violate our code where others may perceive a benefit of violating the code, openly and knowingly.”

Lentz said that the signs were more important to candidates than the actual voters and that voters have to walk through “a jungle of signs” to cast their votes.

The commission did not say whether the policy change would be put on a future agenda.

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