Read his lips: Austin’s not running for mayor

Signs supporting Bill Austin for mayor of Poulsbo popped up in downtown Poulsbo over the weekend.  Austin said he is not a candidate, and finds the signs humorous. - Richard Walker
Signs supporting Bill Austin for mayor of Poulsbo popped up in downtown Poulsbo over the weekend. Austin said he is not a candidate, and finds the signs humorous.
— image credit: Richard Walker

POULSBO — In stating he is not running for mayor, Bill Austin sounded a little presidential.

“Read my lips,” he said, borrowing three words from Bush 41. "I did not put those signs up."

Of running for mayor of Poulsbo, he said, “It’s not my cup of tea. I’m not politically minded.”

Handmade signs promoting Austin, a longtime businessman and Poulsbo booster, for mayor popped up downtown over the weekend. He saw a sign Saturday morning as he left his home to have coffee at Central Market.

“I just laughed,” he said. “I took it as humor.”

The candidate filing period for the 2013 elections is May 13–17. The primary election is Aug. 6, the general election is Nov. 5. On the ballot in Poulsbo: Mayor and council positions 5, 6 and 7.

Mayor Becky Erickson announced her candidacy for a second term April 9. Ed Stern, Council Position 5, and Jim Henry, Council Position 7, have announced their candidacies for reelection. David Musgrove, Council Position 6, said in an earlier interview he will make an announcement within the next couple of months.

Austin said that while he sees the signs as an attempt at humor, he said he “feels bad for” Erickson, with whom he’s worked on several local projects, among them the Norseman sculpture at Viking Avenue and Lindvig Way and the “Velkommen til Poulsbo” signs at two city entrances.

“She’s a friend like everyone else here is a friend,” he said. However, he added that he does not endorse candidates, and will not endorse Erickson, because “I am neutral. I am not political.”

Erickson said she thinks the signs were put up in fun, but was surprised when she saw them.

“I have to admit, I came down Saturday morning, when I saw them, it startled me,” Erickson said. She said she believes “someone is playing some kind of prank.” She said she has no clue who is behind it, but “they’re ambitious, that’s for sure.”

She added, “I’m taking it all as great humor and moving on.”

Besides, the signs are illegal, according to Erickson. She said campaign signs — even “joke” ones — must identify who’s paying for them. That rule actually applies to political signs larger than 8 feet by 4 feet, according to an October 2012 brochure issued by the state Public Disclosure Commission.

Erickson said she took down the signs she saw; she said she often takes down unapproved or inappropriately placed signs around the city. In the future, when the city’s new sign ordinance is implemented, Public Works will be more “proactive” about picking up unauthorized signs, she said.

PDC spokeswoman Lori Anderson said a mayor removing the signs of a potential opponent in an election could be “a delicate situation.” Enforcement of laws related to campaign signs is up to the city, “and usually it’s not the mayor,” Anderson said.

Erickson had no problem removing the signs. “I take elections seriously. A well-run city government is an important thing.”

Austin, 77, has lived in Poulsbo since 1971. Over the years, he spearheaded public projects ranging from public art to historical building restoration to parks development. He received the Poulsbo Chamber of Commerce’s Man of the Year award in 1980 and, in January, the chamber’s first Lifetime Achievement Award. He is vice president of the Poulsbo Marine Science Center.
Austin said he’s been asked to run for mayor several times over the last 20 years. “It says people like what I’m doing, but it would be the end of me — like committing suicide,” he said. The worst part of the job: All of those meetings the mayor is required to attend.

“You lose your freedom. Right now, I’m absolutely free and that’s where I intend to be. I feel really good where I’m at.”

As for that “Read my lips” pledge, Bush 41 ended up raising taxes as a way to reduce the national budget deficit. But Austin said he won’t break his “Read my lips” pledge.

“It’s not challenging enough,” Austin said of the mayoralty. “If I ran for president, that’s a different story.”




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