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Anti-Biden sign on County Highway A north of Baraboo draws attention, complaints
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Anti-Biden sign on County Highway A north of Baraboo draws attention, complaints

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Highway A sign

Craig Hoppe, who lives north of Baraboo along County Highway A, attaches U.S. flags to his yard sign Wednesday after saying that he realized children could read an offensive word on the sign. He said he didn't want to offend children, just adults, with a sign that he said is not political, but democratic, in its effort to criticize the current U.S. president for his choices regarding foreign affairs and immigration.

A sign put up by a Baraboo man who said he wants to draw attention to the country “going in the wrong direction” garnered some complaints to local officials shortly after it was put up.

Though the roughly 4-foot-by-5-foot placard specifically refers to current U.S. President Joe Biden, property owner Craig Hoppe said it was aimed to criticize leadership, not as a partisan attack, which he said he suspects is part of the reason for the opposition.

Callers to the News Republic last week complained about the language on the sign, pointing out that there is a church nearby and the curse word was highly visible to everyone who passes by the property.

“It’s not political, it’s purely American,” Hoppe said Wednesday as he attached small U.S. flags to the sign, covering a letter to slightly censor the curse word aimed at Biden and in smaller type, a sentence that referenced people who voted for Biden. Hoppe said he realized it wasn’t appropriate for area children who might see it.

Hoppe, 57, grew up in Baraboo before enlisting in the U.S. Army and returned after operating tanks in Germany. He said he wants people to “pay attention” to the positions of the Biden administration, like seeking a new nuclear deal with Iran.

Within less than an hour as Hoppe worked to attach the flags, three people driving by honked and waved while driving by his home north of Baraboo along County Highway A.

“It was my intention to get attention,” Hoppe said.

The sign, which is a pre-ordered flag Hoppe attached to a different one he had displayed for more than a year thanking emergency workers for their duties during the COVID-19 pandemic, got attention. Hoppe said as he was doing his job driving a semi-trailer in another state, he received a call about its placement.

Those upset over the display had called local officials, from the Sauk County Sheriff’s Office, Sauk County Highway Department and Sauk County Board of Supervisors Chairperson Tim McCumber.

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Highway Operations Manager Darren Carrigan viewed the sign. Hoppe said Carrigan marked off the location of his property line to ensure the sign was placed on private property rather than the easement or county right-of-way. White spray paint marked the line directly next to where Hoppe had recently moved his sign posts.

Signs like that can go “both directions,” McCumber said, and though most people wouldn’t prefer one with that language displayed, private property owners are allowed Constitutional rights.

“I don’t think too many people at the county would disagree that those signs are not tasteful, but unfortunately, there’s not much we can do about it, especially from a First Amendment standpoint,” McCumber said. “It’s out of the public right-of-way so there’s really nothing we can do about it. ...It’s a fine line on what somebody’s Constitutional rights are when it comes to the First Amendment, free speech.”

According to the Sauk County zoning code, the purpose of sign regulations is to “Regulate signs in a manner that does not create an impermissible conflict with constitutional, statutory, or administrative standards.” Tate Hillmann, Sauk County land use and sanitation technician, said that each resident is allowed one sign along the frontage of their personal property.

The sign that Hoppe covered thanking nurses and first responders, and a woman named Robin who made meals he could take along on jobs since many places were shut down initially, never drew complaints in the 14 months it was up, Hoppe said, even though it was at the end of his driveway, closer to the road than the current sign.

He said the language criticizing Biden isn’t political and that he didn’t vote for the former president either.

“I figure if I can’t leave my daughter alone in a room with Trump, I can’t vote for him,” Hoppe said.

Still, he said his aim through the attention-grabbing verbiage was to ensure people listen.

“It’s ridiculous that people are making decisions and not thinking about what happens down the line,” Hoppe said. “No one has to agree with me, but people need to be informed.”

Follow Bridget on Twitter @cookebridget or contact her at 608-745-3513.

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