In the season of campaign sign rustlers
June 2, 2014
EXCLUSIVE By KAREN VELIE
You know it really is election season when signs appear and disappear throughout San Luis Obispo County as candidates battle for exposure. And every year candidate signs worth thousands of dollars are stolen.
Even so, this year’s battle for District 4 supervisor is unusually cantankerous with signs illegally placed, signs stolen and sign thieves caught or photographed. In addition, the county public works department has sent multiple letters to the candidates asking them to remove signs from neutral public roadways.
Candidate Caren Ray, a sitting supervisor, has dozens of campaign signs placed on county and state property in violation of the law. Ray is running for election against Nipomo businesswoman Lynn Compton and Arroyo Grande real estate broker Mike Byrd.
Typically, candidates get permission from supporters to place signs on private property. Campaign signs are not permitted on publicly owned lands such as parks or public right of ways like highway on-ramps.
On Friday, after each candidate had received three warnings to remove any illegal signs, a county public works employee removed dozens of signs placed in public right of ways and hauled them to the corporate yard, said a representative of County Public Works.
Mike Renner watched from his seat in the Cowgirl Café as a county employee removed a Ray sign from the public right of way next to the restaurant. He left the restaurant and noticed a car driven, by Ed Eby which stopped in three places shortly after the county employee removed a Ray sign. In each case, Eby replaced the missing sign with a new Ray sign.
When contacted by CCN, Eby said he did not see the county employee remove the signs, though he noticed they were gone and replaced them. Eby contends that some county staffers are unaware of what constitutes a public right of way.
“Public works people took signs off my property Friday morning,” Eby said. “I don’t think all of the public works people have a clear understanding of where the legal right of way is.”
At the county yard sets a large stack of Ray signs.
Nevertheless, Eby claims that Compton has placed as many signs in the public right of way as Ray. However, a reporter drove through the area and notice several Compton signs that violated the county’s restrictions on campaign sign sizes, but not one in the public right of way.
All three candidates have had multiple signs stolen and both the Ray and Compton team have taken information of the thefts to law enforcement. Of the 50 large signs Byrd placed throughout the district, his campaign reports that all but five have been stolen.
The election is Tuesday. Polling places open at 7 a.m. and close at 8 p.m. Candidates have 14 days following the election to remove their signs.