Billboard gets tossed off bluff

'Sign' of the times

Posted: Wednesday, July 12, 2000

An act of vandalism took a political turn earlier this week when someone tossed a campaign sign over the bluff the Kenai.

The sign belonged to Rep. Hal Smalley, D-Kenai, who had just placed it there Monday night. Smalley said he had a feeling something like this might happen. As he and a helper were installing the sign at the end of Willow Street on Monday evening, he said he was approached by a woman who challenged his right to do so.

"This young lady expressed some strong concern over my sign and asked if I had permission from the property owner," Smalley said Tuesday afternoon, just before he climbed down the treacherous bluff to retrieve the sign's broken pieces. "The woman asked for my name, and I told her it was right here on the sign."

Smalley said he put the sign up at the request of property owner Blake Johnson and had planned to only have it up for the next month.

"It was just going to be here for the fishing season for all the fishermen to see," he said. "They've supported me in the past, and I support them."

The $110 sign, which measures about 4-feet-by-8-feet, was anchored into the ground atop the bluff facing the mouth of the Kenai River where it can be seen by the salmon fleet as it heads in and out of port. The four stakes supporting the sign were sheered off, leaving sharp spikes sticking 6 to 10 inches out of the ground just feet from the 80-foot cliff.

"This is what's really dangerous," Smalley said, as he kicked one of the stakes. "I've got a gear puller at home, so I should come back to remove these."

He also lamented the destruction of his private property and damage to Kenai's seriously eroding bluff.

"If someone would do this to my sign, what would they do to other people's property?" he asked. "It's a total lack of respect for the bluff and private property."

The woman who approached Smalley on Monday evening was Deborah Pearce, who spends time in the adjacent Unity Recovery and Service Center.

"The sign blocks a beautiful view," Pearce said Tuesday morning. "There's no reason to have a huge sign like that here. I'm not sure why he put the sign up."

Pearce said she collected 24 signatures on a petition between Monday night and Tuesday morning calling for Smalley to remove the sign.

"That's great," Smalley said. "I love petitions."

The sign was placed on an empty lot occupied only by a pair of picnic tables used by visitors to the Unity Recovery and Service Center. Smalley said he tried to put the sign close to the property line so it was as unobtrusive as possible.

He said after the conversation with Pearce he thought something might happen to his sign and came back to check on in at 10 p.m. Monday. He found it intact but late Tuesday morning heard it had been destroyed .

"Her comment to me was she was going to get something done about it one way or another," Smalley said. "But I'm not going to accuse anyone, except the person who did it."

Pearce said she did not kick the sign over and said it wouldn't have mattered to her whose sign it was.

"I don't vote," she said. "I'm just concerned with how it looks."

Smalley said the sign meets all Alaska Public Offices Commission regulations regarding size and placement.

He said he will put the sign back up, perhaps off the edge of the bluff so it is even less obtrusive. Smalley also called the Kenai Police Department from the bluff to report the vandalism and plans to offer a reward for the arrest and conviction of the vandals.

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