Thursday, July 27, 2006

Grudge Match over signs in Ward 3 Race

Claims of midnight sign-nabbing by thugs from rival camps are so common in the District that most serious politicos ignore them. And so most people wrote off the disappearance of signs for Ward 3 council candidates Paul Strauss and Eric Goulet from Connecticut and Wisconsin Avenues.

In this case, though, the disappearing sign mystery turned out to be not so difficult to solve. Both Strauss and Goulet were told that the signs were yanked from signal lights by the D.C. Department of Transportation. City officials told them the removal was a mistake and that the signs would be returned.

OK, so just some overzealous enforcement by city employees? Perhaps. But consider that one of the leading candidates in the Ward 3 race—in this case Bill Rice—left a high-profile job at DDOT.

“It does seem a bit peculiar that DDOT admitted to taking down the signs, and we have a candidate in the race that used to work at the agency” says Strauss. Not that I’m making any kind of accusation, of course.

Rice was chagrined over being linked to any action by DDOT. “I know absolutely nothing about this,” he says. “I quit my DDOT job. Rice says he has never spoken to anyone at DDOT about campaign signs.

Turns out some bureaucrats felt the signs created a distraction, according to Department of Public Works spokesperson Mary Myers, who says the placards ended up with DPW.

DDOT spokesperson Karyn LeBlanc says the whole episode began when “someone called” the city's main call center claiming the signs were obstructing traffic signals. That’s when the crack inspectors and field staff at DDOT sprung into action. Those signs were removed,” says LeBlanc.

The Strauss camp says the obstruction must have been much more widespread than they ever noticed. A DPW staffer dropped off 42 signs at Strauss campaign headquarters on Tuesday. Goulet says he hasn'’t been able to hook up with the city to get his back.

I asked them if they were going to put them back up for me, but they said no, says Goulet, who tapped into a meager campaign treasury to have the signs posted. “They suggested I file a claim for the loss.

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