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Mayoral candidate complains of missing signs

PHOENIX — Just weeks after announcing his candidacy for mayor, former council member Steve Schulman is dealing with missing campaign signs in various parts of the town he says he's hoping to help govern.

One of two mayoral candidates in the November election — facing off against council member and water commission Chairman Jeff Bellah — Schulman discovered a half-dozen of his red and yellow signs missing this week.

Another half-dozen either were pulled out of the ground and tossed into nearby bushes or pulled from the dirt and laid flat, Schulman said.

City officials have instructed police to be on the lookout for indications of tampering with election signs. Schulman said he preferred to think the issue was one of "just kids messing around" rather than any ill will related to his campaign, but he admitted to wondering why his signs were missing or removed while signs promoting other candidates remained in place.

"I'm not accusing anybody of anything," Schulman said. "I don't even want to say I think something bad is happening.

"I really have no idea where they're all going, but those signs aren't cheap. Locally, they cost about $8.95 apiece."

Of 100 signs posted in town, Schulman reported signs missing from the corner of Bolz and Highway 99, near Ken's Auto, La Tapatias restaurant, along Colver Road, and near Barkley's Tavern, along Highway 99.

A second sign posted near Ken's Auto disappeared and was replaced with a banner, Schulman noted, while additional signs near Rose Street and Helm Street, both along Main Street, were pulled from the ground and tossed in nearby bushes or landscaping.

Bellah said he had not had any issues with campaign signs being vandalized or disappearing as of yet, though he pointed out he had purchased only about two-dozen signs for his own campaign, relying instead on fliers and campaigning in person.

"I haven't had any problems, but I put mine up later than he did, and I didn't have nearly as many so I was pretty careful about putting them on private property and asking whether people supported that or not," Bellah said.

"A lot of his look to be on the roadway and stuff like that, too, so maybe the kids are messing with them. I've had a couple fall down, but I don't think I've had anybody mess with them."

City Manager Eli Naffah said election sign issues are not uncommon.

In 2008, Medford residents reported a rash of thefts of signs for the presidential race.

Naffah said "almost every city" in which he's worked in city management has faced campaign-sign issues.

"Everywhere I've been, I've seen signs go missing. Usually it's kids playing around — nothing significant," Naffah said.

"I've told our police, and they're keeping an eye out, and we told public works, even if they're in the right of way, not to mess with signs. I'm real sensitive to that type of thing. I want to make sure everything is done fairly."

Bellah said he hoped that lawn signs would have little to do with the Phoenix election outcome and that residents would get to know both candidates before filling out ballots in coming weeks.

"Hopefully the signs don't decide the election," said Bellah.

"There's a lot more to it than that."

Buffy Pollock is a freelance reporter living in Medford. Email her at buffyp76@yahoo.com.