Encinitas Watch: Campaign Signs and Ethical Behavior
by Jim Babwe
As important as the law is in our society, it’s also important to apply common sense to enforcement. There’s a tacit understanding among most of us that it’s possible to get a speeding ticket for driving 36 miles per hour on a road where the speed limit is 35, but it’s not likely. Technically, it’s against the law to operate a football pool which tempts us to pitch in a couple of bucks and draw some numbers which we hope will match the final score of the Holiday Bowl, for example. Authorities do their best to be diligent about enforcing laws that are intended to deter and/or punish those who would inflict serious harm to others or cause significant damage to property.
Recently here in town, two current members of our City Council (incumbents in the upcoming election) were filmed as they drove around and put up their campaign signs a full two hours or so prior to the official time as stated in City Ordinances. A firestorm of protest erupted from political opponents who, by all indications, would have enjoyed seeing the blatant scofflaws carted off to some high security State penitentiary.
The videos were posted on youtube and finger pointers pointed fingers and said things like, “Looky. Looky. I’m not voting for you and neither should anyone else because you got caught putting signs up before midnight.”
While it might be true that some of these tenacious seekers of justice never drive 36 in a 35 zone, it’s also true that these people might work themselves into a frenzy and flood the 911 emergency dispatch system with urgent calls.
DISPATCHER: 911. What’s your emergency?
CALLER: We need help. There’s a fire next door. It’s in the backyard. And it looks like some sort of cult ritual. Animals have been cut into pieces and people are placing these animal parts directly over the inferno. Some of them are sitting in groups at wooden tables. And it looks like alcohol is involved. The people seated at the wooden tables are eating the charred animal parts. Hurry. Please hurry.
Okay, I admit the exaggeration. And I understand that, technically, displaying campaign signs a couple of hours prior to the legally designated start time violates the specific wording of a City Ordinance. But does this kind of act truly deserve the inordinate amount of attention it has received? Does the story really rank high enough in importance to warrant front page attention by at least two local newspapers?
If you believe the story does deserve the close scrutiny it has received and if you hope other citizens here in Encinitas need to join in to demonstrate with you as you voice your indignation and outrage, why is it that you are also willing to ignore a related story which has far more serious implications?
As it stands, I can tell you the part of the sign story that has somehow been ignored by many has caught my complete attention.
In a front page story written by Barbara Henry of the North County Times (October 9, 2012), Tony Kranz was reported to have signs which were displayed prior to the official start time. He was interviewed and quoted in the story as follows:
Acknowledging that it sounds far-fetched, Kranz said those signs were stolen from his garage, which he accidentally left open Wednesday night. He said he thinks the thief later stuck them up along the road and then photographed them to make him look bad.
“In fact, I was shocked to find signs at Leucadia Boulevard (on Thursday morning), I actually gathered them up. … It’s against the law,” he (Kranz) said.
No big deal?
It is for me.
I’m the guy he phoned on the morning of October 8 to accuse of “breaking into his garage to steal the signs, put them up, and photograph them.”
Kranz claimed he has a “security system” at his home and he “knew it was me on the recording because the quips” he heard sounded exactly like me.
I’ve known Tony for about a year or so and we’ve always been on good terms, so at first, I thought he was kidding. As soon as I heard the name calling—I mean, I haven’t been called “slime” since . . . well, I don’t think anyone has ever called me that name to my face. I mean, to my ear through a phone. Or to my face—I understood he was not kidding. As I began to understand the implications of his accusations (breaking and entering, theft of personal property) I realized there was nothing funny at all about the situation.
Putting signs out early is one thing, but being unjustly accused of felonies is quite another. Based upon the gist of the message and Kranz’s tone of voice, I hung up the phone and began to contemplate the prospects of deputies arriving at the school where I was teaching at the time. I remember thinking, “How am I going to prove that I don’t even know where Tony Kranz lives?”
In addition, there were these thoughts, too: if Tony’s garage was broken into and robbed and he calls the police and says I did it, the remainder of my day would seem to include a completely unexpected twist, especially in terms of the liberty I enjoy and appreciate.
Based upon what I’ve observed in their behavior prior to now, I will not be surprised if I become a new target of opportunity for juvenile name-calling and the like. If Tony Kranz continues to deny what he said to me on the phone that day, I will be a liar, right?
Weirdly enough, and lucky for me, there are approximately 34 high school students who heard my end of the conversation when Kranz called me at 8:58 a.m.. And there are a few of those 34 who were close enough to me and my phone that they heard Kranz identify himself and then go ballistic. Or postal. Or out to lunch without his lunch pail. Yelling. Name-calling. Accusing.
When Kranz continued to yell at me, I realized there would be no reasoning with him. I told him I had not been to his house, not stolen anything, not seen his signs, not taken pictures of his signs, but he continued to yell at me, so I hung up the phone and let him entertain himself with his incoherent ramblings.
Later in the day, Tony called me again. This time, he denied making the wild accusations and claimed to “not have a security system at his house.” He claimed I must have “misinterpreted” what he wanted.
Next he tried to ask if he could buy some photos from me. I explained that we had a serious issue to clarify prior to any discussion about buying photographs. I explained that I know what it’s like to wake up on the wrong side of the bed. I know how it is to be a bit irritable. I’ve said things I didn’t mean.
I said, “Tony, I’m giving you an out here.” And I explained to Tony that I was worried about him–especially if he continued to deny the earlier accusations. I told him again that I was giving him an out.
He continued to deny the earlier accusations. I explained to Tony that I worked with troubled people for a long time and I told him that many of those people (especially those who were prone to deny their own blatantly inappropriate misbehaviors) could be classified as sociopathic. Kranz immediately accused me of calling him sociopathic and launched into another incoherent tirade. I interrupted and explained as follows: denial of his previous tantrum did not change the event. I did not “misunderstand” anything about his first phone call that day.
Nobody’s perfect. I understand that part. But Kranz lost my vote on Monday.
I won’t be so presumptuous as to tell anyone else how to vote, but if Tony Kranz is elected, those of you who want to dump Jerome Stocks because you think he’s arrogant will have to clear the way for another kind of potential behavior that puts arrogance into an entirely new (and relatively harmless) light.
I also need to add this. Those people who want to be regarded as intelligent, fair-minded, trustworthy, and ethical might be able to maintain the appearance of those values in the eyes of their friends and neighbors. But if they continue to express their disdain for candidates who put up campaign signs a couple of hours early while ignoring or otherwise minimizing the atrocious (and threatening) behavior of Tony Kranz—I will know them as hypocrites.
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Babwe is a resident of Encinitas.
The views express on SD Rostra are the responsibility of the individual authors. Mr. Babwe provided the above as a written document and in follow-up communication indicates that he stands by the statement in its entirety.