Those Political Signs And Stations

Kirk Caldwell is getting inside my head. I’m not kidding here. He’s messing with me. A couple of days after the June 5 filing deadline, a 3-by-6-foot, full-color sign went up on the fence of a neighbor who lives directly across the street from me in Pearl City’s beautiful Pacific Palisades. It reads simply: “Mayor KIRK Caldwell” in green and red and white on a lighter green-and-red background.

When I fetch the mail, get into or out of my car, walk into the yard to take a look at the Waianae range, whatever it takes to get me looking west, there’s KIRK, gray hair atop a perfectly tanned face, nice smile, wearing a blue blazer over a blue-and-white aloha shirt: a 3-foot-tall head shot in devastatingly full color, a photographer’s – and candidate’s – dream.

But there’s a problem for a sign so large, so lush, with a picture so perfect. KIRK’s sign hangs in a miserable place. Nobody in neighboring households to the right and left of the Boylans are ever going to see the thing. It hangs in the middle of the block, parallel to busy Komo Mai Drive, out of even the peripheral vision of motorists racing up our Palisades. It may get its message to me; indeed, I’ve reached the point where I begin my summer days waving and yelling, “Good morning, KIRK.” Few others will even notice it.

When it comes to campaign signs, like fast food restaurants, location is everything. On our block, the prime campaign sign location is a few houses farther up the road from KIRK, at the corner of Komo Mai Drive and Auhuhu Street. A light stops traffic there, and state House candidates Gregg Takayama and Eloise Tungpalan, Senate candidates Clarence Nishihara and Alex Sonson, and mayoral candidate Ben Cayetano all have signs at the intersection.

Caytano’s, Sonson’s and Nishihara’s are large, Tungpalen’s are many, but Takayama’s is downright gorgeous. The former journalist wears a floral aloha shirt with more colors in it than an artist’s palette. And his photograph. Holy crow! White hair and brilliant smile with teeth so white they’ve obviously never met red wine, nicotine or coffee.

The era of the large, expensive, lush, full-color with lifelike photograph campaign signs began more than a decade ago. But with their beauty – and particularly their photos – comes a problem: They beg for desecration.

And desecrators comply. Recently Windward Sen. Pohai Ryan saw her new, expensive Photoshopped signs adorned with moustaches, beards and devil’s horns a day after she put them up. The graffitist played no favorites. He decorated the faces Ryan’s two primary opponents and a congressional candidate as well.

I don’t relish any candidate’s fancy sign being trashed, but the signs themselves are but another, if pretty, expression of the piles of money that have come to desecrate our politics more than a graffitist’s marker ever could.

Full-color, 3-by-6-foot, all-weather signs with photo for legislative candidates? For any candidate? It’s a little much.

Remember Hawaii’s first escalation of candidate advertising? It was 1970, when the overfinanced Jack Burns re-election campaign made a 30-minute film titled Catch a Wave. It was a stunner, and thereafter every overfinanced statewide candidate had to have one, thus George Ariyoshi’s The Boy from Kalihi and Cayetano’s Reach for the Moon.

This election, Hawaii campaign advertising history has escalated once again. Last week U.S. Senate candidate Linda Lingle’s campaign announced that it will have its own cable television station – 24/7 of candidate Lingle.

That’s right, all Lingle, all the time, 24/7. Aren’t we blessed?