Comment: Owdziej’s signs are too big
I’m an avid fan of The Ann, appellate attorney of 25 years, and a long-term resident of Ann Arbor. I’m writing to you about the very hotly contested judicial race for probate court.
As you know, one of the judicial candidates is Judge Julia Owdziej, very recently appointed by Governor Snyder to fill the probate seat pending resolution of the elections. Since her appointment, Judge Owdziej’s campaign has placed a set of three signs on Main Street for three weeks, two of which are more than 7′ x 12′. Two of the signs are almost four times the size permitted by the Ann Arbor signage ordinance and are also closer to the sidewalk than permitted. There is an identical 7′ x 12′ sign on the freeway just west of the Jackson Road entrance. Photos are attached.
The Ann Arbor signage ordinance for political signs reads in pertinent part as follows:
“5:506. Political signs.(1)A sign whose message relates to a candidate for political office, or to a political party, or to a political issue or an ideological opinion, is permitted, subject to the following conditions.(a)Each sign shall have a maximum height of 48 inches and a maximum width of 36 inches, including the support structure and all riders, and shall have the bottom of the sign a minimum of 6 inches from the ground.(b)Such signs shall be set back at least 15 feet from the street and at least 5 feet from the inside edge of the sidewalk…”
A complaint was filed with the City early this week and the City has had the building department send out a letter – that’s all – thereby letting this continue despite the fact that this violation is grossly unfair to the other judicial candidates and the primaries are less than two weeks away. As of this morning, the signs were still there.
Worse, the signs misleadingly imply that Judge Owdziej has been a judge for twenty years – “serving the County’s most vulnerable for 20 years” – rather than merely two months.
It is particularly galling that, even with the inevitable edge that the “incumbent” designation on the ballot will give her, Ms. Owdziej feels she can and/or must also break the law to have an even larger edge by ignoring local law. Aside from the questions this raises about her suitability as a judge or judicial candidate and the obvious ethical questions for one whose job is to uphold the law, her signs are certainly unfair to the other candidates who have not chosen to pursue such tactics.
We should be asking ourselves before the primary what kind of judicial rulings we can expect from a judge who does not play by the rules and who, after being on the bench for a mere few months, already feels free to flout the law for her own personal and professional gain to inch ahead of the other candidates by hook or by crook.
I had some hesitation to write to you about this because, on the one hand, it may seem like a small thing in light of the world’s larger problems. On the other hand, the courts have so much power to affect our lives in this small community that it is well worth addressing this to avoid bigger problems down the road. I have asked a few of the other candidates if they were aware of the signs. They are but are reluctant to do anything about it because they do not wish to appear negative about their opponent. It is unfortunate that Judge Owdziej has been able to bank on her opponent’s good character in this respect.
I have also asked several other members of the business community and voters for their thoughts and was encouraged to write to The Chronicle because it takes such matters more seriously than other publications and is therefore taken more seriously by readers. I hope that you will consider writing a short piece regarding this situation prior to the primaries. Please feel free to contact me if you have any question and thank you in advance for your consideration.
Attorney at Law