Fighting fire with fire is the only option.
This is what Allison Taylor, manager of the Yes on Prop 1 campaign, told proponents of the marijuana measure in a post on their campaign Facebook page Friday.
The campaign’s counterattack: To put up a large sign that violates city code along Pacific Highway South that states “Please vote yes Prop 1.”
They did so this week in response to a “Please vote no Prop 1” sign that property owner Tom Cantrell put up last week at his property on Pacific Highway South that incited controversy with proponents of the measure, which could lift the city of Federal Way’s ban on cannabis dispensaries if approved by voters this November. Cantrell said he is willing to pay the fines for violating city code with his oversized sign, which will begin accruing this week.
The yes campaign says until Cantrell removes his sign, they will keep their own sign up, “creating equal messaging for those who see it. We are not excited to do this and we are committed to removing the sign as soon as the other sign is removed,” according to a Yes on Prop 1 campaign statement.
However, Cantrell previously told the Mirror he plans to keep his sign up until the general election in November.
“We understand that the Yes on Prop 1 campaign will have to adhere to the same code compliance regulations,” their statement continues. “However, we do not want the voters of Federal Way to think that the City is responsible for the ‘No’ signage, and are willing to pay the price to make sure voters are not confused by the cynical behavior of Mr. Cantrell.”
Prop 1 proponents, and city officials, have expressed concerns that Cantrell’s sign could mislead voters as it looks similar to city signage.
“By using a sign that replicates City signage, this sign gives the inappropriate impression that the city is taking a position on their own ballot measure,” according to the statement.
Fines for the code violation will soon begin accruing for the Yes on Prop 1 campagin as well. The city’s code compliance staff visited the site of the new sign on Friday morning, said Tyler Hemstreet, the city’s communications coordinator.
“A letter went out this morning to the owner of the site notifying him of the code violation,” Hemstreet stated in an email. “As we stated earlier this week, we will treat everyone equally in how the law applies in this matter.”
The yes campaign’s strategy has sparked some criticism from both cannabis retail opponents and proponents.
Cantrell posted on social media that the campaign “paid me the highest compliment and flattery. You copied me with your own ILLEGAL SIGN on the proposed Cannabis store site.”
Several campaign supporters expressed their concerns over the sign.
Christi Keith stated on the campaign’s Facebook page that their “poor strategic decision” will leave some people “feeling less inclined to go to bat because the campaign flipped messaging without warning.”
However, Taylor said the campaign didn’t flip anything.
“We need to win,” she responded. “We don’t have an army of volunteers to combat this sign with. We had to be bold so [Cantrell] didn’t fool the citizens into thinking the city didn’t support their own measure. We need to win this for our community.”
According to the Yes on Prop 1 statement, cannabis retail will provide needed revenue – without new taxes – to the city. However, opponents said that revenue would not even pay for two new Federal Way police officers and two vehicles.
Several Prop 1 supporters also expressed while they don’t agree with the decision to put up a sign, they still stand behind the campaign and support bringing cannabis retail to Federal Way.
Jack Walsh, who the city appointed to the con commitee opposing the measure, said while his campaign did not know Cantrell before he put up his sign, they are “pleased that a local businessman has taken the initiative to take a firm stand against an effort that hurts our community.”
Walsh also criticized the city for its sign ordinance that he says infringes people’s freedom of speech.
“It seems ironic that the city cannot have an ordinance prohibiting professional panhandlers and their signs, because it violates their First Amendment right to free speech, but there is an ordinance prohibiting having a sign on your own property expressing your political views,” Walsh said in a statement. “The First Amendment right of free speech and freedom of the press was created expressly to protect political speech.”