Anyone driving around Caledonia will see many signs for Brandow, Morris, and Nichols. You’ll see far fewer signs for VanGessel, Ernest, and Timmer. Some people speak to us with some concern about that. It’s understandable. But here’s the deal.
First of all, we will put more signs up. Our own sense of timing was that the second half of September, before the absentee ballots go out, would be the right time for this. We have put up signs here and there earlier, but more will go out now.
Second, the advice we have received is that all the best research on effective campaigning comes to the same conclusions: signage does not change minds. People don’t vote for you in significantly larger numbers if you have a lot of signs. This feels counterintuitive. If every sign that I see out there said “Ernest“ rather than “Nichols,” for example, I would feel happy and proud of my signage! But the experts say other ways of reaching voters are a lot more cost-effective.
Third, speaking of cost: Mary Anne and Eric have been clear with me from the start that they are not the least bit interested in engaging in partisan politics. They simply have no taste for it. They don’t think that’s what school board should be about, and I agree very emphatically! And nothing says “partisan political campaign” like a ton of expensive signs.
I’m maybe a little bit more of a hardened realist, though, and have thought that if that’s the way this game is going to be played, maybe we should step up and play it, hard. They have conceded a bit, and we will be putting up more signs than they wanted to. But Mary Anne says that numerous people comment to her about the wastefulness of our opponents’ obviously high-level spending on signage; and they ask her: if B-M-N are willing to waste money like that in this campaign, how freely will they be wasting tax-payers’ money if they get elected to school board? Well, I wouldn’t have thought of it that way. I have done a bit of fundraising myself, and will be spending it all in various ways. But clearly the V-E-T campaigns are working with a much smaller total budget than the B-M-N campaigns, and that’s a deliberate choice. Our campaigns will all have to file our pre-election funding reports on October 28. After that, the sources of our money will become public knowledge. Many of us will be interested to learn where all that B-M-N money is coming from.
So, there you have it. The V-E-T campaign is working very hard to get our message to voters in the Caledonia Community Schools district. If you want to think of signage as one battle in that campaign, clearly it’s a battle that we are not winning. But we don’t think most people are going to decide who to vote for by riding around in their cars and counting the signs. There are many better ways, and many worse ways, than that to decide who to vote for. We are working on giving you all the best possible reasons for voting for VanGessel, Ernest, and Timmer. If you’d like to help us get the message out in other ways (by sharing emails with friends, for example, or by canvassing in your neighborhood or elsewhere), write to me through the contact form. And if you have property in a high-traffic, high-visibility location and would like to have V-E-T signs to display, we would be very glad to hear from you about that as well. We can always print a few more signs.
Postscript: the sign-stealing issue
I am in two minds about mentioning this at all. But there are so many subtexts in this campaign! What’s out there on the surface is quite meager, if you start looking for content, especially from the other side. And what lies not very far beneath the surface is concerning. That’s in general, regarding the real issues in this campaign. But it applies also to one awkward little thing pertaining to campaign signs.
So this is where I will mention that from the start we have had a problem that our opponents have not had: a number of our signs have been stolen.
The first (not the last!) time two of Eric’s signs were stolen from a prominent intersection, I composed a brief statement condemning the stealing of signs, promising not to steal signs, and telling our supporters that we don’t want them stealing signs either. I sent my draft statement around to all six of the other candidates, inviting them to sign it; and inviting them to suggest modifications, if they were willing to sign it but wanted changes.
I received quick replies from Eric and Mary Anne that they would be willing to sign on. I also received a reply from John Brandow, politely declining, because he said it might be an isolated happening and he didn’t see any point in drawing attention to it; and I’m not sure he was wrong about the advisability of drawing attention to it. The risk would of course be to inspire more of it! I received no reply at all from Ian Rice, Jennifer Nichols, or Tim Morris. I had initially said to everyone that I would post the statement regardless of how many others signed it. But when I saw that I would have signatures from Timmer and VanGessel but not from any of the others, I saw that the statement would be seen as one-sided, and maybe even as a suggestion that our opponents were somehow to blame for the theft of our signs. I did not want to give that impression, and Eric (the main victim of the sign-stealing, though I have subsequently had signs stolen as well) was very clear with me that he did not want to give that impression either. So I just dropped it. As far as I know, sign-stealing only accounts for about six points in our large deficit in the sign-posting contest, so it’s certainly not the main factor. But it has affected our willingness to spend a lot more on signs.
It has become apparent since then that Ian Rice is not campaigning for election, so that could account for his failure to reply. I don’t know why Jen did not reply. I’m confident that Jen and John have the same attitude that we do toward sign-stealing.
As for Tim, someone recently filed a FOIA request and in return received, and posted on social media, a police report from a decade ago when Tim was caught on a security camera stealing an opponent’s sign. From the police officer’s account of his conversation with Tim, it seems to me that Tim’s position at that time was that it’s OK, or if not completely right, at least understandable, to steal an opponent’s sign if you think maybe it has been located on a public right-of way or on private property whose owner has not consented. Does he still think that? I don’t know. If you want to know, maybe you should ask him. All I know is that ten years ago, when he saw an opponent’s sign placed where he didn’t think it should be, he pulled it up and stuck it in the trunk of his car. And a few weeks ago, when I asked him to sign a joint statement against sign theft, he ignored me.
Now, the signs of mine and Eric‘s that have been stolen have all been located on private property, with the permission of the property owners. But maybe someone thought that might not be the case and for that reason felt justified in removing (stealing) them. We have no idea who that might have been. I’m not posting that ten-year-old police report. I read it when it was posted. Neither Eric nor I (much less Mary Anne) had anything to do with its being posted on social media in the first place. Eric did not want to draw attention to it in any way. But someone else dug it out and made it public, which is why I mention it here: to give my perspective on something that is already out there. It may be—I certainly hope it is—entirely irrelevant to our recent experiences with sign theft.
By the way, when I saw one of Tim’s signs illegally posted in the public right-of-way in the subdivision where I live, I did not touch it or even dream of touching it. I did report it to the village; and within a few days it was moved across the sidewalk to a legal location. It is still there now. That’s how this should work.