As we reported earlier, Alaska’s campaign sign laws are a complex combination of state rights-of-way, private-property rights, federal highway law and a 1998 Alaska citizen voter initiative that passed with nearly 75 percent approval that should have left our roadsides pristine.
It is, in essence, very simple, according to Heather Fair, the chief of the DOT’s Right of Way division.
“Any sign visible from the traveled way is not allowed,” she told KDLL last month when campaign signs first started sprouting.
However, DOT spokeswoman Shannon McCarthy says the lack of funds for enforcement of the billboard law has meant limited staff and limited enforcement, and as a result, more illegal signs this year than maybe ever.
“It’s easy to police if you have the resources to do it,” she said. “But in the last couple years because we’ve had fewer people to help with that enforcement — you know, meaning the fact that we’ve had fewer interns to help out in the field. So as a result, we’ve actually seen more signs placed illegally.”
With the state primary election next week, hundreds of illegal campaign signs will still litter the Kenai Peninsula come election day on Tuesday, as McCarty says planned enforcement action won’t come for several more weeks.
“A police officer doesn’t pull over everyone he or she sees speeding. He uses his judgement to go after people he sees as the worst offenders (and) things he really sees as a safety concern. But anyone in any kind of enforcement, you don’t have an unlimited budget, you don’t have unlimited people; you have to be judicious and make sure you’re attacking the biggest problems first,” she said.
Some signs were tagged and removed in Anchorage last week, McCarthy said, and sign squads are working now in the Mat-Su Borough before they turn their attention, limited by inadequate funding though it is, to the Peninsula.