Tara Flanagan, who’s arguably the front runner in the race for Alameda County Superior Court Judge, has been the target of a blogger who claims that she’s “illegally” posting her campaign signs (“Don’t Vote for Tara Flanagan for Judge” he says). This is the meat of what Mark Welch wrote on his blog:
I just had a fascinating conversation with Tara Flanagan, who is a candidate for Superior Court Judge in Alameda County. After I informed her that her campaign signs were posted illegally on public property, she demurred and dissembled.
First, she asserted that I should not talk with her about this, but instead I should talk to her “consultant firm,” which posted the signs (like most persons accused of any crime, she sought to shift responsibility to others).
When I pointed out how bad this looked in a candidate for judge, she said that she’d personally spoken with someone at the City of Hayward who told her it was OK (ignorance of the law, or misinformation or a misunderstanding, is an excuse).
And Welch refers to another blog post installed in 2010, where he claims candidates can’t post a campaign sign on public property, but get this, Welch fails to actually note where it says that in the state law.
What’s worse is that he then goes on this rampage, taking down the signs belonging to, in that case, Nadia Lockyer.
Why Mark Welch Is Wrong
When you run for office, you have to complete a candidate’s application, which also includes a letter assigning responsibility for the removal of your campaign signs when necessary. Here’s what it says:
As a candidate or campaign worker for either office or a ballot measure, this reminder about State law governing campaign signs should be helpful to you.
Section 5405.3 of the State Outdoor Advertising Act exempts the placing of Temporary Political Signs from normal outdoor advertising display requirements.
A Temporary Political Sign meets the following criteria:
Encourages a particular vote in a schedule election.
Is placed not sooner than 90 days prior to the schedule election and is removed within 10 days after that election.
Is no larger than 32 square feet.
Has had a Statement of Responsibility filed with the Department certifying a person who will be responsible for removing the sign.
A completed Statement of Responsibility [Acrobat PDF] must be submitted to:
Division of Traffic Operations
Outdoor Advertising Program
P.O. Box 942874, MS-36
Sacramento, CA 94274-0001.
Temporary Political Signs shall not be placed within the right-of-way of any highway , or be visible within 660 feet from the edge of the right-of-way of a classified “Landscaped freeway”.
State law directs the Department of Transportation to remove unauthorized Temporary Political Signs and bill the responsible party for their removal. We are calling these provisions to your attention to avoid possible embarrassment or inconvenience to you and your supporters. Please share this information with those assisting in your campaign.
Should you have any questions, comments or need additional information, please call (916) 654-5327.
Note that it says nothing at all about public property. Nothing. And remember, standard California laws concerning outdoor ads don’t apply here.
Also, and to be sure, I placed a call to Dave Macdonald, the Alameda County Registrar of Voters boss who’s expertly represented Alameda County for many years. His office handles candidates running for office in Alameda County. Regarding the restriction of political signs to private property, Dave said that “I’ve not heard of that before,” but did say that local individual civic laws apply, and you, of course, can’t post signs at the local city hall. But Mark Welch’s open interpretation of that law includes any public property, including rights-of-way, and on that Mr. Macdonald remarked “That’s not something I’ve ever heard of at all.”
And he’s the boss of elections in Alameda County.
I think Mr. Welch owes Tara Flanagan a big apology. It’s too late to fine him for the Nadia Lockyer sign-take-down action, but Mr. Welch should stop this kind of activity in the future.