Sign wars

Right of way disputes, vandalism stir up campaigns

Rebecca Neipp

News Review Staff Writer

Sign warsAs campaign signs continue to multiply along local byways, so do the complaints cropping up about vandalized, stolen and illegally placed signs.

On Tuesday morning the signs of two candidates for water board had been tagged with black spray paint. Other candidates have called in and reported signs similarly defaced or even stolen.

(While some candidates always concede that wind could be a factor, others say that they have found evidence of deliberate damage or removal.)

Ridgecrest Police Chief Ron Strand said that he doubts that opposing candidates are behind any of the violence to campaign signs. “People seem to forget that we have had these issues for years.” He said that historically those acts are committed by youth who are not connected to a particular campaign. But those acts are still a crime, he said, and punishable as misdemeanors.

Another dispute appears to stem from a misunderstanding about where candidates can legally place signs.

One property owner at the corner of China Lake and Ridgecrest boulevards said that he kept requesting candidate Roy Ashburn take down his signs, which were placed without permission. Even when signs were finally taken down, they would appear again the next day.

An Ashburn volunteer told the News Review that his supporters understood that the property owner did not have the authority to remove signs on the 15-foot easement that started at the curb.

A Gleason supporter contested this — stating that the easement rights only restricted signs from being placed on public rights-of-way, such as sidewalks.

Strand confirmed that the latter interpretation is correct, and on Tuesday morning the Ashburn sign was moved to a new location.

“Apart from the sidewalks, this basically comes down to a personal property issue. That owner has the right to give, or deny, permission to whomever he wants to grant access,” said Strand.

“It is similar to having an easement that allows utility companies to access your property — that does not mean that anyone has the right to hop over your fence.”

Strand did add, however, that he was concerned about anyone taking signs that do not belong to them. He said that if anyone had a question or complaint about code enforcement, they should call the RPD at (760) 499-5100.

Story First Published: 2012-10-17