A 15 foot tall Trump/Pence yard sign has turned extra political after a city government in Washington ordered a homeowner to lower the placard or risk the ire of code enforcement.
West Bremerton resident Kevin Chambers says the 32-square-foot Trump 2020 campaign sign in his front yard started out as a joke, having been installed by his friend as a prank while he was out of town.
"I had originally just laughed it off and decided I'd leave it up for a week or so and then take it down," Chambers tells Reason, who described himself as "actually pretty liberal." (He does co-host a radio show one night a week on a local AM station described by KING5 as a conservative outlet.)
But that was before he saw comments on a local Facebook group threatening to vandalize his sign. At that point, Chambers decided the sign was going to stick around for awhile longer.
"I'm not a huge supporter of [President Donald] Trump, but I'm even less of a fan of people trying to tell me what I can and can't do in my own yard," he said. In an interview with KING5, Chambers said he even planned to add a big Democratic campaign sign once the party picks its nominee.
Eventually, this trolling provoked a local vandal to graffiti the Trump sign. To prevent future defacement, a friend of Chambers placed the sign atop 15-foot wooden stilts.
That move might have deterred the vandals, but it attracted the ire of city code enforcers.
The week of Christmas, Chambers received a letter from the city informing him that non-commercial signs can be no taller than six feet, and that he had until January 21 to lower or get rid of the sign or face possible fines.
City planners stressed to the Kitsap Sun that their sign height limit is content-neutral and based on international signage standards. They said they do not proactively enforce the code, but are required to take action when violations are reported.
Chambers says the city's practice of relying on citizen complaints nevertheless carries its own form of bias in the largely liberal community. Kitsap County, where West Bremerton sits, voted 50–9 in favor of Hillary Clinton in 2016. (Gary Johnson earned 6.9 percent.)
"That's someone who saw the giant Trump sign and didn't like it. I guarantee if this had been a Biden or a Gabbard or a Warren [or] a Sanders sign, it would have never been reported," he says.
Chambers says that regardless of the code, his sign poses no safety risk, and that he should, therefore, be allowed to keep it. It's his yard after all.
"Why does anyone have the right to tell anyone what they can do in the yard? I don't think it's the government's room to do that, I don't think it's our neighbor's room to do that," says Chambers.
The Supreme Court ruled in 2015 that local governments cannot regulate signs based on the content of their message.
This ruling probably offers little protection to Chambers, who's being railroaded by a content-neutral sign ordinance purportedly passed to protect public safety. Regardless of constitutional issues, freedom lovers everywhere will sympathize with his desire to keep a giant, semi-ironic political sign in his front yard only because people told him he couldn't.