Billboard

Ron Ford paid for a billboard near Junction City that accuses Manhattan of communism, fascism and other things.

Ron Ford, the high-profile critic of Manhattan, has launched another billboard assault on the town, this time expanding the list of its sins.

Ford owns a billboard along Interstate 70 in Junction City. Last May, he got a lot of attention by using it to attack Manhattan as “the next best thing to communism,” complete with a hammer and sickle.

This time, he recently put up a new one in the same place that says, “Manhattan, KS: Communism, Fascism, Crony Capitalism & Fake Juvenile Journalism. Business Persons & Investors Beware.”

The sign, which includes a hammer and sickle and a skull and crossbones, also says, “Paid for by Ron Ford.”

He’s never made entirely clear what his grievance is, and he hung up on the Mercury’s editor-in-chief and publisher when he identified himself Monday. But sources a year ago pointed to a long-running feud Ford had with the city government over zoning regulations on his rental properties in town as the likely source of the irritation. Ford lives just outside the city limits.

Which “ism” his beef relates to is not entirely clear, but he evidently wasn’t terribly pleased with the reporting on the matter, either. The initial report was in an “I Wonder” column, wherein readers ask questions and the newspaper’s reporters and editors find answers, sometimes with a bit of analysis or insight thrown in, including some occasional snarkiness. The report a year ago pointed out a grammatical error in the billboard’s copy.

The billboard in question is near exit 298 on I70 in Junction City. The top portion, controlled by a billboard company, is leased to Freddy’s Frozen Custard. The bottom portion is controlled by Ford; the anti-Manhattan board was replaced after a short life by a board for JCs, a restaurant also owned by Manhattan businessman Dave Dreiling, who also happens to be a Freddy’s franchisee. Dreiling said Ford didn’t want to renew the lease on that bottom portion, which is why the space became available for the new and improved slam.