Political signs are stolen in Ridgefield, parties complain

Democracy is speaking on Ridgefield’s roadsides. But the political messages sometimes have a short shelf-life.

‘Trump 2020 — Keep America Great!’ ‘Biden-Harris, text united to 30330.’ ‘Aimee Berger-Girvalo for state representative.’ ‘Bob Hebert, state representative, proven leadership for Ridgefield.’ ‘Will Haskell, state senate.’ ‘Vote Kim Healy, state senate — responsible leadership, community driven.’

Political sentiments are on proud display around town. But there are complaints of sign-stealing — and they have nothing to do with the runner on second letting the batter know a curveball is coming.

The chairmen of Ridgefield’s two political town committees — Democratic and Republican — issued a joint statement this week condemning the theft of political lawn signs.

“The US Constitution protects free speech and the right to express our opinions,” said Republican Town Committee chairman Michael Raduazzo. “While we may not agree politically, we are all neighbors and need to respect each other and not diminish each other’s voice.”

“An important part of our town’s success has been that people of both parties work together as volunteers in town government,” said Democratic Town Committee chairman Joe Shapiro. “That spirit has traditionally carried over to mean that theft of signs in the more divisive races for positions in Hartford and Washington has been kept to a minimum.”

Bitter contest

Candidate sings vanishing in the night has been a recurring problem in election season for years, but the two chairmen say is running rampant amid this year’s bitterly emotional presidential contest pitting incumbent Republican President Donald Trump against former Democratic Vice President Joe Biden.

“I’ve been getting many, many complaints of candidate signs suddenly gone overnight,” said Democratic Town Committee chairman Joe shapiro.

“It’s much worse than in past campaigns. The Democratic lawn signs that are most ubiquitous throughout Ridgefield are the Biden-Harris signs, and we've had to replace quite a lot of stolen or defaced ones,” he said. “We've also had reports of signs for our General Assembly candidates, Sen. Will Haskell and Aimee Berger-Girvalo, disappearing overnight.”

Republican Town Committee chairman Mike Raduazzo told a similar tale.

“Yes,” he said. “We have had some complaints regarding theft of signs. Mostly the thefts are Trump-Pence signs but others have disappeared as well.”

The two town committee chairmen issued their joint statement, condemning the theft of candidate signs, on Saturday, Sept. 26.

“Theft of candidate signs or damaging those signs is absolutely unacceptable,” the two chairmen’s statement said. “Placement of candidate signs along the road at the front or side of one’s property is a long tradition of our elections here in Ridgefield. It’s imperative that everyone in our party and the other party, no matter how strongly they feel about a particular candidate, fully respects the right to place candidate lawn sign.”

While people have been complaining to the town committees, apparently no one has felt the sign thefts were worth making an official report to the police.

“I can’t say that any were officially reported,” Raduazzo said. “But I can say that my own Trump-Pence sign was taken not more than three days after I set it out. The other signs on my property were left alone.”

The Ridgefield Police Department confirmed on Tuesday that it had not heard from any outraged owners of missing signs or disgruntled free speech advocates.

“We have no formal complaints of political lawn sign thefts to date,” said Capt. Shawn Platt, the department’s public communication officer.

From Rudy’s yard?

Shapiro, the Democratic chairman, highlighted a particular incident — signs taken from the first selectman’s front yard on Main Street.

“The most notorious incident was on the night following a DTC event in First Selectman Rudy Marconi's backyard on Sept. 13,” Shapiro said. “That day, there had been a nice display of candidate signs on Rudy's front lawn, which is on Main Street just north of the fountain, and the next morning all but one of the signs were gone.

“And that’s a very visible property on a very visible street, so for that to be perpetrated against Rudy Marconi was very surprising to say the least,” Shapiro said.

Message for thieves

One property on Catoonah Street, with a mix of Republican and Democratic signs out front, had next to them a small sign with a message for sign-stealers.

“Political signage is a demonstration of engagement in American Democracy,” it reads. “To the person or persons who vandalize or remove signage, we know who you are. Your actions are disappointing to say the least.”

The statement issued by the two town committee chairman said there’d been reports to local party leaders of their candidates’ lawn signs disappearing during the night and also being severely damaged.

The two chairmen might disagree on candidates and policies, but they agreed stealing signs isn’t the way politics should be played.

“Theft of lawn signs infringes on the rights to express ourselves and should not be condoned under any circumstances,” said Raduazzo, the Republican.

“We all need to demonstrate that we can eliminate sign theft,” said Shapiro, the Democrat, “even in 2020.”