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Sign, sign, everywhere a sign

By JACINDA HOWARD, The Mirror

The lifespan of an election sign is not always as short-lived as one may think.

Campaign signs — colored red, green, white, blue, yellow and combinations thereof — urged Federal Way residents to vote for candidates and initiatives. The signs marked several highly-traveled intersections throughout the city in the weeks preceding Tuesday’s election.

The general election has passed, but that does not mean the same destiny has to befall the signs. Some of Federal Way’s city council and school board candidates have found creative ways to put their election signs to use.

Election signs dotted Federal Way’s landscape by the thousands this past week. Hope Elder and Dini Duclos, both of whom ran for the vacant City Council Position 7, and school board candidate Amye Bronson-Doherty each erected approximately 500 double-sided signs throughout the city, the candidates said.

Incumbent city council candidate Jack Dovey distributed about 100 signs, he said. Incumbent school board candidate Dave Larson placed about 300 signs in Federal Way, he said.

The signs could be seen mostly along major corridors and traffic-heavy intersections. At 1st Avenue South and South 320th Street, more than 50 signs were in view on Election Day. Approximately 36 of them were located near the Professional Center. Some of the signs lined the streets. Others competed for space and visibility in large, crowded clusters that poked from the landscaping.

Come Wednesday, many of the signs had vanished. Although King County Elections allows 10 days before all election materials must be removed from the city, some candidates began picking up their signs Tuesday night. Dovey made a quick stop by his home after the night’s city council meeting before heading to the streets, he said.

A little after midnight, he concluded picking up all the signs that he could locate, Dovey said. There are certain common courtesies that go along with elections: Do not block another candidate’s sign and get your signs down as soon as possible, Dovey said.

“I just figured the election is over, why litter the city?” he said.

Duclos, along with a team of five people, also started recovering her signs Tuesday night. Duclos wanted to begin collecting the signs as soon as possible because they mess up the landscape, she said.

Larson has begun to collect his signs and will finish the process this weekend, he said. Removing the signs in a timely fashion is important to him, he said.

“They are free speech before the election and litter after it,” Larson said.

Elder expects to finish collecting her signs by the end of the weekend, she said. She and a team of helpers recovered the majority of her signs by midnight on Election Day, Elder said.

“We are all very concerned about the garbage that lies around,” she said.

Bronson-Doherty has not begun her recovery mission yet, but also plans to have the signs removed before the end of Sunday. Dealing with the signs —ordering and disposal — is the worst part of the whole campaign, she said.

Though small, election signs are not cheap. It cost about $3.35 for a sign, another 35 cents for the stick to place it on, plus costs for screws to attach the two materials, Larson said. He spent approximately $1,200 on election signs, he said.

Elder spent around $2,500 for her advertisements, which featured metal wires instead of wooden stakes.

“They are the biggest expense that I had,” Elder said.

With a desire to be environmentally friendly and an urge to be thrifty, the candidates have all found a way to creatively use their election signs — now that they are no longer needed on street corners.

Bronson-Doherty was environmentally conscious when she began purchasing her signs and requested they be made from recyclable materials, she said. She will take the face of her signs back to Vilma Signs, located in Federal Way, where they will be available for the public to re-use for free or returned to the manufacturer and then recycled, she said.

“I’m kind of a recycle queen,” Bronson-Doherty said. “I hate waste.”

Larson said he will store some of his signs — face and stakes — and use them again if he chooses to run for a school board position in the future. All the candidates who spoke on this issue said they will donate the stakes or wires of their signs to future candidates or school board levies.

“I would be happy to donate them,” Duclos said.

Elder and Dovey ran for city council positions before and have experience disposing their signs. Following the last time Elder ran for city council, neighbors used her signs to advertise garage sales and lemonade stands, she said. All one has to do is put a brown paper bag over the face of the sign to create a new look, Elder said. Her neighbors are aware of where she resides, and Elder does not imagine they will hesitate to request the use of her signs after this election, she said.

Dovey, on the other hand, will use his signs for home improvement projects. The broken stakes may be placed in his garden to keep the green beans under control, Dovey said.

Another sign might be used to keep squirrels out of his bird feeder, he said.

The election materials that do not find their way to someone’s backyard, garage or the street again will likely be tossed in the trash. Some of the signs are made out of non-recyleable materials that have no place to go but to the transfer station, Duclos said.

Contact Jacinda Howard: jhoward@fedwaymirror.com or (253) 925-5565.

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Sign of the times:

Vilma Taylor has been making signs, posters and banners at her Federal Way business, Vilma Signs, 30432 Military Road, for 22 years. In this time, she has found ways to put her signs to use in non-generic ways.

Taylor allows her customers to bring their signs back to her, in small amounts and in good condition, after they are done using them. She generally keeps 100 to 200 returned signs on hand at her business, she said. If she has more than 10,000 returned signs, she can have them picked up and recycled for no cost.

Parents, children and art teachers are just some of the people who have benefitted from Taylor’s signs. Anyone can come in to Vilma Signs and pick up the used materials for free, she said. Federal Way residents visit Taylor when they need signs for garage sales or kids’ playhouses. Teachers visit when they wish to use the signs as part of an art project, she said.

The back of a returned sign can also be used to print a new message on, she said. One way or another, a sign returned to Vilma Signs will be re-used.

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