The northwest corner of South Airport Way and Daniels Street should be devoid of all political campaign signs by the end of the day on Friday.
Manteca City Clerk Joann Tilton said all the candidates who have signs posted on this corner have been notified via email on Wednesday to remove the postings from the property fence immediately. Any remaining signs left on Saturday will be removed by the city at the candidates’ expense.
It is illegal for all election candidates to post political campaign signs on public property, according to city ordinance. Tilton confirmed the vacant property at the northwest corner of Daniels Street and Airport Way is owned by the Manteca Redevelopment Agency. The entire undeveloped land on the north side of Daniels Street stretching from Airport Way to Milo Candini Drive to the west, up to Big League Dreams, is actually, owned by the city.
“We start getting calls about (campaign) signs around this time during the election,” Tilton said.
Premium corners for visibility, such as those on the busy intersection of Airport Way and Daniels Street, are common locations as well for promotions and advertisements announcing fund-raising and other community events benefiting non-profit groups in town, she said. The city does not want to “shoot anybody down,” especially if they are trying to do something for the good of the community. At the same time, “we want to be consistent” when it comes to enforcing the law, Tilton said. Some of the illegal postings may not have been done intentionally by the candidates concerned, she acknowledged. “I’m sure they’ll comply,” she said of the notice she emailed to them on Wednesday.
Non-profit organizations can put up signs on public property on a temporary basis, she clarified. “That’s not a problem.”
Two of those non-profit signs are announcements about Sierra High’s Timberwolves’ football and cheer groups. The other is an announcement about Big League Dreams’ sports offerings.
The candidates who have posted large campaign signs on this city property are Ben Cantu who is running for mayor in Manteca, Harinder Grewal for State Assembly, Michael Eggman for U.S. Congress, and Jeff Tilton for San Joaquin County Office of Education (SJCOE) superintendent. A much smaller sign below the Grewal posting is that of Manteca Unified Board of Trustees president Don School who is seeking re-election as the representative of Area 6. Rounding out the signs on this corner of the intersection is a large OfficeMax sign advertising its free PC checkup and tune up.
To the east of this corner is also a vacant lot containing large campaign signs of James Mousalimas who is running for SJCOE superintendent, Jeff Denham for U.S. representative, Steve DeBrum for mayor of Manteca, Vince Hernandez for Manteca city council, and Kristin Olsen for State Assembly. This vacant corner property, however, is private and is not owned by the city.
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Local ordinances governing placement of political signs
Election regulations governing political campaign signs clearly spell out what candidates can and cannot do. Cities like Manteca and Lathrop provide every candidate this information and other pertinent matters about the election and their candidacy after their papers are officially filed. Some of these rules are also contained in the California Fair Political Practices Commission regulations under Political Advertising Disclaimers. Under the section on “posting political signs on utility poles and other public property,” candidates are advised to check with local ordinances for specific rules on posters and yard signs, including the placement of campaign signs on government-owned property.
In the Lathrop Municipal Code under political campaign signs, for example, the ordinance states that political campaign signs on public property are prohibited. No such signs “may be placed on fences, utility wires, support wires, traffic signs, signals or standards, or any tree or shrub located within a public right-of-way.” Moreover, such signs placed “within a public right of way: must not “interfere with public safety, including visual, traffic and pedestrian impacts,” according to the ordinance.
The manual that Lathrop and Manteca gives to every candidate also includes guides on what signs placed on private properties are permitted and not permitted. In the Lathrop ordinance, no permit is required when placing campaign signs at single-family dwellings “with the consent of the owner or lawful occupant of the lot upon which (the) dwelling is located.” The other rules, though, still apply in terms of safety issues and the legally allowed size of the posted signs.
“I’ve always made it a policy to ask the property owner,” Manteca councilman and mayoral candidate DeBrum said about posting his campaign signs. “I believe it’s just good practice that you must do that.”
First-time Manteca city council candidate Richard Silverman is of the same mind. Even when posting on vacant lots, he first tries to find the owners of the property before he puts up a sign there, he said. “You can look that up; you can find it out.”
However, there was one time when the owner of the property where he posted his sign called him about it. It turned out, “I got the address wrong,” said Silverman who promptly removed the sign from the man’s property.
Outside of city ordinances, there are also the rules that simply require one to “use your brain and common sense,” Silverman expounded. For one thing, “you don’t block other candidates’ signs; you’re supposed to, kind of, be a gentleman about it. It’s considered breaking the code (of ethics). We usually don’t block each other. We try to be honorable about it. All the candidates should know the rules.”
Part of the ordinance-mandated rules is for all candidates to remove all of their campaign signs seven days after the Nov. 4 election.