Simi Valley Political Sign Drama

Sometimes, not sharing the details does more to stir the rumor mill than simply naming names and telling the truth. Take the latest in Simi Valley political sign gossip:

BTW, I have heard from multiple people that a certain Council person is harassing citizens who have signs from other candidates and in some cases getting people to take the other signs down.

After Ken Sandberg, candidate for Simi Valley Mayor made that remark, I began speculating and asking around, privately and in public forms, who he was talking about and learned that the latest rumor was that Council Member Barbra Williamson had “harassed” a property owner into removing a Keith Mashburn for City Council sign. No one seemed to be able to confirm it, including those involved. I asked Keith Mashburn for comment and he kindly replied:

Hi Mike.  In the interest of my camp remaining positive, I decline to comment.

I respect Keith’s decision to keep things positive. Unfortunately, however, his choice to stay quiet in the interest of running a positive campaign only made me more suspicious that the rumor might be true. I learned that the property owner was on Stearns Street and received their contact information and decided to call them directly.

It turns out the property owner’s adult son granted permission for the Mashburn sign to be posted and the sign was placed while the owner was out of town. Upon return, the owner, a long-time Williamson supporter, decided he preferred not to have the sign there and respectfully requested that it be removed. The property owner indicated that the Mashburn team was very courteous, removed the sign and apologized for the misunderstanding. When asked if Williamson played a role in removing the sign, he seemed surprised by the question and said, “No, not at all!” He reiterated that he was not harassed or coerced, that his son was also a good man who is a Mashburn supporter, and that both Mashburn and Williamson are good, respectful people. The sign was removed for no other reason than the property owner simply didn’t want it there.

Sign-gate 2012? No, not at all. The lesson learned: apparently, not everything you read on Facebook about the political scene is true. Imagine that!

Video Evidence: Sign Thefts

I’m glad the election is over. While it may not have been as heated as other elections in other areas, it was bad enough for Simi Valley. One of the most memorable moments for me will always be the theatrics surrounding sign thefts. The accusations from supporters on all sides, the letters to the editor, and the blog and forum comments on the topic were heated, to say the least. The editorial in the Acorn regarding the stakeout of the Huber for Mayor sign yielded an even number of people both agreeing and disagreeing with what happened with that incident.

I think its a fair assumption that considering the obvious support Bob Huber’s campaign had from the Simi Valley Police Officers Association, his signs were considered a bit more sacred to those on the POA. That’s something that has been hotly disputed, but the videos I found recently I believe are further evidence of that. I’d bet comfortably that the POA doesn’t have any video evidence of sign thefts of any other candidate. Admittedly, I have no details on how these videos were obtained.

A YouTube user named svpdpoa401 uploaded the following three videos. The quality is somewhat poor because it appears to be video shot of a video monitor playing the actual videos. The producer of the videos included amusing title cards and upbeat rock music. The origin and background of the video is unknown because the metadata on the uploads contains no detailed descriptions. However, you’ll clearly see hooligans swiping Huber signs and running away.

Sign Stakeout Letter Round-up

Letters to the editor of the Simi Valley Acorn always represent a wide range of thoughts and emotions on various topics. Themes will last for weeks at a time, or months at a time during the election season.

One of the most recent topics that seems to polarize the community is related to the issue of the Huber for Mayor sign stakeout. Detective Arabian has a solid reputation as a police officer and as a detective. Following the initial breaking of the news by the Acorn, the paper followed it up a week later with an editorial questioning whether or not the detective, an active supporter of Huber’s campaign, made an error by volunteering for the stakeout task.

There’s a heck of a lot more to this story that most of us probably don’t know. The letters to the editor this week begin to shed some light on that fact. What follows is a summary of letters on the topic. Read them all to draw your own conclusion…

Police have a duty to investigate – Writer believes police should investigate sign thefts as a top priorty to protect first amendment rights. Suggests a cost savings to the city of $2000.

Becerra got a call about his signs too – Writer shares details regarding a phone call to Councilman Glen Becerra. Also expresses concern about how this information was leaked to the press.

Huber should have done the stakeout – Writer suggests Huber should have conducted his own investigation regarding sign thefts and doesn’t believe it was effective use of law enforcement resources.

Involvement was a conflict of interest – Writer believes that the detective who is a known supporter of Huber, appearing in his campaigns, should not have conducted the stakeout as it represents a conflict of interest.

Unfortunately, there doesn’t appear to be a middle ground on this issue…

Huber Sign Stakeout Gone Awry

For months, we’ve heard stories about lost campaign signs with some subtle and some not so subtle finger pointing toward the supporters of opposing campaigns. Last week, I posted an article about a property manager taking down Bob Huber’s signs claiming proper permission was not obtained. This week in the Simi Valley Acorn there’s a report of a police stakeout on a Bob Huber campaign sign at the McDonald’s on Yosemite Ave. where more signs were disappearing. The results of the stakeout concluded the signs were being removed by a McDonald’s employee:

Like clockwork, at 4:30 a.m. a man removed the signs—including ones for council incumbent Glen Becerra—putting them in the back of his pickup truck.

When Arabian confronted the man, he discovered he wasn’t a thief, but a property maintenance worker, clad in a McDonald’s shirt.

Though permission to post the signs had been granted, this worker was apparently just unaware.

It’s the nature of the crime that prompts a stakeout by the Simi Valley Police. The dollar amount of the damage combined with the identifiable pattern of the crime offers an investigator an opportunity to solve it. The signs were apparently expensive and enough were stolen to qualify this as a felony.

Santino said it’s been frustrating to see sign after sign taken down. At $65 a piece, it easily adds up to felony theft, which requires $400 or more in damages.

“We knew we were going to lose signs, but the frequency and the vast amount has just been a huge surprise,” he said. “In my opinion, some of our signs have been systematically removed because they don’t want our message out there.”

Though Santino didn’t say it, Huber’s supporters have insinuated that Sojka’s camp is behind the thefts. Sojka, who has also had dozens of signs removed, said that is “totally out of line and unfair.”

Naturally, the question I asked when I first heard this story was were they expecting to find a Steve Sojka supporter creeping around at night stealing their signs? I may never get a straight answer to that question. I can tell you that a few evenings ago, a Huber supporter was discussing his stolen signs on Facebook and is suggesting that his opponent’s supporters are the perpetrators.

And just when you think it can’t get any uglier, the phrase “inappropriate use of resources”  is heard. The Acorn article goes on to discuss the fact that an outspoken Huber for Mayor supporter volunteered to conduct the stakeout, and that his salary range and overtime pay resulted in a relatively expensive night.

Read the article at the Simi Valley Acorn by clicking here.

Was the stakeout a success? That may be a matter of perspective. The signs will likely stop disappearing now that the truth is revealed. No one pressed charges. And if you were hoping a Sojka supporter would be caught and arrested, then this was a stakeout gone awry.

As an added note, I also think City Manager Mike Sedell shows good judgment by choosing not to investigate this until after the election. While it’s easy to draw the conclusion of a conflict since the detective who chose to conduct the stakeout is a known Huber supporter, Sedell opts not to make it into an election issue. I appreciate that he can make that decision despite being a frequent target of criticism by Huber supporters.

Paul Coambs on Signs

I submitted a piece entitled “City of Simi Valley Prohibits Political Signs In Favor of Incumbency” to the Simi Acorn.  they published an edited version as “Sign ordinance is bad for democracy”

Below is the full piece. I hope that you will elect to publish it in its entirety.

Regards,
Paul Coambs

Mr. Coambs, I’m happy to do so. Your letter appears below in its entirety as you emailed it to me:

~~~

City of Simi Valley Prohibits Political Signs In Favor of Incumbency

In 2006, the City of Simi Valley enacted a city ordinance prohibiting the placing of temporary signs, including pre-election political signs, on the public right-of-way.

The ordinance asserts, “The placement and accumulation of temporary signs in the public right-of-way, on traffic and utility devices, upon public sidewalks or on public easements presents dangerous conditions to the free and safe flow of pedestrian and vehicular traffic. Such areas must be preserved for official traffic signs and official utility notices in order to assure the safe flow of traffic.”  The ordinance justification offered no proof of hazard existing in the City.

The only proof of justification stated within the ordinance concerned aesthetics.  The ordinance states,  “Prior to the adoption of the ordinance, the City of Simi Valley has permitted temporary signs in the public right-of-way, which has resulted in substantial unsightly conditions, as illustrated in evidence presented to the City Council during its consideration of this ordinance.”

The ordinance further states, “A limitation on temporary sign display is directly related to the objective of aesthetics.”

It goes without saying that a sitting member of the city council enjoys a considerable political incumbent advantage over an election challenger.  That advantage is the result of name recognition and opportunities to interact with the residents and business community in the course of conducting city business.

One of the main mechanisms to gain name recognition is the time honored tradition of posting temporary political signs in advance of an election.  There is no greater venue for political signs than the public right-of-way.

By improving the “aesthetics” of the city and forbidding the posting of political signs on the public right-of-way, the council voted a political advantage for themselves.

Limiting candidate free speech robs the public of the opportunity to learn about their prospective city leaders.

City Council challenger Keith Mashburn wants to amend the city sign ordinance to correct the political injustice.  Vote for Keith Mashburn, a man of integrity.