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Scappoose political signs violate city ordinances

Rules for sign displays vary widely across county

With Election Day roughly seven weeks away, political advertising is again dotting the landscape, but some signs are in violation of city codes.SPOTLIGHT PHOTO: COURTNEY VAUGHN - A campaign sign for Wayne Mayo, who is running for Columbia County commissioner, violates a sign ordinance in Scappoose. No complaints have been filed about Mayo's signs, but city officials said they will send letters to candidates in violation and give them a 10-day window to remove the signs.

Incorporated cities within Columbia County have wildly varying sign ordinances.

In Scappoose, the city restricts political signs until 45 days before an election. The city’s sign ordinance also limits signs to four square feet.

In neighboring St. Helens, campaign signs are allowed 120 days before an election, and must not be more than eight feet tall.

Columbia City, the most strict city in the county, requires a sign permit, but temporary signs no bigger than four square feet can be displayed five days prior to an election.

Without an ordinance, Columbia County defaults to state restrictions on political advertising.

SPOTLIGHT PHOTO: COURTNEY VAUGHN - A complaint was filed after signs for Scappoose Mayor Scott Burge surfaced around the city, in violation of the city's sign ordinance, which restricts campaign signs until 45 days before an election. The complaint was filed by the campaign manager for Burge's opponent.Craig Marquardo of Scappoose said he filed a complaint with the city of Scappoose after seeing campaign signs for Scott Burge, who is running for reelection in the city’s mayoral race.

Burge, who was elected mayor in 2006, acknowledged the mistake, saying he was unaware of his city’s sign ordinance.

Michael Sykes, city manager for Scappoose, said the city will send letters to candidates in violation.

“Honestly, I saw other signs out, so I started putting my signs out,” Burge said.

He said he disagrees with the city’s policy regarding political signs, saying it infringes on political free speech.

“The standard campaign season is Labor Day to election day,” Burge said. “I think that our regulations need to be looked at. I think they’re too strict for political free speech. The rules really should be to enhance free speech and allow for all candidates to have a reasonable amount of time to put up their information.”

Burge said he plans to remove signs that are in violation of the ordinance, with the exception of those placed on private property by other people.

“I don’t know what my right is to go on someone’s property and take down a sign,” he noted.

He said he’ll place the signs back out in a few weeks.

Burge isn’t the only candidate in violation.

County commissioner candidate Wayne Mayo has at least two billboard signs on highway frontage along Highway 30 in Scappoose.

Mayo’s signs far exceed the city’s size restrictions, but would be acceptable just outside city limits, or in St. Helens.

Complaint filed by opposing campaign

Marquardo, who is working as the campaign manager of Burge’s opponent in the mayoral race, said Burge should know better.

Marquardo is helping to manage the campaign of Mark Reed, who serves as a Scappoose city councilor.

“I solicited Mark [Reed] to run a while ago,” Marquardo said. “I thought about running myself, but decided I wasn’t ready for that yet.”

Marquardo, who manages property in Scappoose and owns a talent management agency, was convicted of election fraud in Hood River in 2006 after he made false statements about his work and military history in a voters pamphlet. At the time, Marquardo was running for a position on the Port of Hood River Board of Commissioners.

Reed said Wednesday that he was “unaware” of his campaign manager’s history.

“I haven’t heard any of that,” Reed said. “He’s a hard worker. He approached me about running my campaign. All we’ve talked about is marketing and that’s it.”

Reed said he decided to run for mayor to effect change on the Scappoose City Council.

“I don’t have any issue with Scott,” Reed said. “I think he’s a great guy, I just think it’s time for a change.”