By Jeb Bladine • President / Publisher • 

Jeb Bladine: Politics produce signs of the times

Researching rules on political campaign signs reveals an interesting dichotomy:

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Jeb Bladine is president and publisher of the News-Register.

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Citizens felt compelled to create state, county and city rules and restrictions on the size, placement and content of political campaign signs; but almost no one cares whether the rules are followed or enforced.

There are exceptions, such as past incidents involving Yamhill County Commission races. One involved theft, the other unauthorized movement of candidate signs.

Sign-related violations in 2020 are more mundane, but still revealing of candidates’ attitudes toward rules.

For example, the extra-large campaign signs you see are illegal. At 32 sq. ft., they exceed size limits of 16 sq. ft. in McMinnville, and 12 sq. ft. along Yamhill County roads or state highways. Many of those, along with smaller signs, violate rules against placement in the public right-of-way.


In McMinnville, seemingly all City Council candidate signs fail to follow the 2020 ordinance on disclosure of campaign finance information. We’ve criticized the new law for its complexity, but still, candidates should be following rules set by a governing body they want to join or remain with.


Oregon might be expected to enforce detailed laws for signs along state highways, but we understand how that could be a low-priority task.


Yamhill County, as a matter of policy, does not enforce its own restrictions on political signs. Officials say they will investigate complaints, but anyone found in violation would be given 60 days to comply. And that’s the ultimate Catch-22 of sign law enforcement!


McMinnville’s website uncovers no complaints alleging 2020 sign violations — not a surprise, since few people know or care about the new rules. Time will tell, in weeks to come, if any council candidates commit serious violations of the city’s new campaign finance disclosure rules.


If you’re a sign-watching motorist, here are a few rules to consider:


In McMinnville, maximum size is 6 sq. ft. in residential areas and 16 sq. ft. in commercial/industrial zones. No signs in city right-of-way, and all signs over 30 inches tall must be 10 feet away from property lines. Political signs are limited to 16 sq. ft. in Lafayette; 6 sq. ft. in Amity and Carlton; and in Dayton, 1 sq. ft. “per each foot of building street-side frontage.”


There are more substantive issues to consider in local campaigns, not to mention a national election with historic implications. Consider this a small break in the high drama, and perhaps a reminder that we have too many laws that are rarely understood, regularly flouted and often selectively enforced.


Jeb Bladine can be reached at jbladine@newsregister.com or 503-687-1223.

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