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WDAY: The News Leader

Published October 26, 2012, 10:33 AM

Fargo bombarded by illegally placed political signs

FARGO – City inspections workers were busy this morning removing political signs illegally placed on public boulevards in an apparent campaign attack on Democrat Heidi Heitkamp, who is engaged in a nationally watched U.S. Senate race against U.S. Rep. Rick Berg.

By: Mike Nowatzki, INFORUM, Forum Staff Reports, inforum.com

FARGO – City inspections workers were busy this morning removing political signs illegally placed on public boulevards in an apparent campaign attack on Democrat Heidi Heitkamp, who is engaged in a nationally watched U.S. Senate race against U.S. Rep. Rick Berg.

The signs, paid for by the political action committee Now or Never Inc., were placed early today on public boulevards at street corners along Broadway and University Drive and elsewhere in the city, mostly in north Fargo.

The signs were generally grouped in threes, with one red-and-white “Obama/Heitkamp” sign between two blue-and-white “Romney/Berg” signs.

Republicans have tried to paint Heitkamp as a staunch supporter of President Barack Obama in a state where a Democratic presidential candidate hasn’t won since Lyndon Johnson in 1964.

Chris Rose, a plan reviewer in the city Inspections Department, said more than 30 calls about the signs had been received by inspections, the Street Department, police and the mayor’s office.

“We have somebody out there right now pulling them,” she said at about 10 a.m.

City ordinance prohibits placing signs on boulevards, which are city-owned right-of-ways.

Rose said those who placed the signs likely won’t face a fine unless they do it again.

“It’s a waste of our time,” she said. “And I’m sure the taxpayers don’t want us out there pulling the signs wasting their money, either.”

About 80 of the signs peppered street corners along Broadway from downtown to 32nd Avenue North.

Brent Wien, who lives at Broadway and 17th Avenue North, said he was surprised when he opened his window blinds at about 6:15 a.m. and saw the signs in front of his house.

Wien, 48, a self-employed painter, said his political leanings are nobody’s business, and he didn’t want the signs in his yard.

“You kind of feel a little violated because it’s in my front yard and they’re putting them there,” he said. “If I want signs up, I’ll put them up myself.”

Wien said he didn’t know at first if he could remove the signs, but then he heard on the radio that it was OK. By 9:30 a.m., the signs were in his garage, waiting to be picked up with the trash on Monday.

Rose said those who placed the signs may pick them up from the city if they want to place them in the proper spots.

The city issued a news release last month reminding residents of the rules for political signs, but with so many people helping the various campaigns, sometimes “the word just doesn’t trickle down,” Rose said.

The city issued a new news release today about the regulations that can be found online at http://www.cityoffargo.com/News.aspx?id=4384

According to its website, Now or Never PAC’s executive director, Jason S.M. Smith, served as national deputy political director for Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s presidential campaign during the 2012 primary election.

Based in Kansas City, Mo., the super PAC bought on Oct. 15 $2,659 worth of anti-Heitkamp signs and $5,299 in pro-Berg signs. It also bought $187,000 worth of TV ads against Heitkamp on Thursday, according to opensecrets.org.

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