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Move against critics of NH 2020 is a troubling sign

Jeff Ackerman, Publisher
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If NH 2020 is not political and not intended to infringe on private property rights, as many of its proponents have maintained, the county is sending the wrong message by ordering opponents to remove signs from their private property.

In fact, the county’s recent demand that NH 2020 opponents remove their signs from their private property “or else” will only add more fuel to a fire that has already reached the five-alarm stage.

It’s something straight out of the “How Not To Win Friends Or Influence People” handbook.



According to what I read (and, yes, I do believe everything I read in the newspaper), a county official received some sort of “No on NH 2020” “hit list” from an anonymous group of people (we could only find five written complaints) and will apparently be using that list as a source of citations, or letters of demand. In January, the county’s code compliance director said he’d decided the NH 2020 signs were political and “no different than” a candidate’s campaign sign. The fact that two of the five county supervisors are up for re-election and happen to support NH 2020 had no bearing in that decision. And Saddam Hussein is a misunderstood flower child.

I’ll go out on a limb and guess that many of those who have complained about the signs also believe in civil disobedience and in the right, for example, to chain themselves to a tree that doesn’t belong to them in an effort to save it from the guy it does belong to. They’re generally the first ones to run for the spray paint, bullhorns and sign boards when the whales, wolves, waters or waffles are threatened. You know … the kind of free speech that makes this country a better place to live than, say, China.




But things are different now. The guys with the signs probably don’t even own tie-dyed shirts, for crying out loud. And I’ll bet most of them are right-wing, money-grubbing oppressors who eat red meat and tuna and listen to country western music on AM frequency. They probably don’t even know the words to “We Are the World,” for Pete’s sake.

For the record, I love the First Amendment. It’s my favorite amendment, just ahead of the one that allows me to protect my property. It’s what keeps me in business.

I especially like the part about the right to petition the government for a redress of grievances. I do that all the time. You haven’t lived until you’ve redressed a government grievance. It’s the most fun you can have while dressed, as a matter of fact.

That’s kind of what the “Stop NH 2020” sign-posters are doing, isn’t it? I don’t recall NH 2020 being on the March primary ballot. How, then, does the ordinance requiring campaign signs be removed by such and such a day following an election apply to NH 2020?

Aren’t the sign owners simply making a statement petitioning the government (county supervisors) for a “redress of grievances” as they relate to private property? Would the signs be as political if they simply read: “Yes On Private Property Rights,” or, “I’ve Upped My Private Property, Up Yours”?

The county has an ordinance against ugliness (size, shape, etc.) on the books and it ought to use that on the signs that don’t comply, rather than the political angle that really doesn’t work. I agree with a recent letter writer who suggested the signs be removed voluntarily to allow motorists to take in the signs of spring that have far more sex appeal. They can be replanted closer to the November election, since county officials have officially made NH 2020 political.

I can’t argue that the “Stop NH 2020” signs aren’t ugly. I’ve seen better looking signs on a pawn shop. They’re dangerous, too. You’re driving down the highway, minding your own business, when suddenly, “Look at that, honey. That sign says ‘Stop … ‘ and before you can even get to the 2020 part you hit a deer and break your natural heritage in three places.

Unless the county really wants this NH 2020 debate to escalate to the point of civil disobedience (protesters chaining themselves naked to ugly signs, for example), it ought to back off until voters have a chance to endorse or rebuke the Natural Heritage initiative.

It’s the only natural thing to do.

Jeff Ackerman is the publisher of The Union. Contact him at 477-4299;


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