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Sentinel staff report–
As the Nov. 3 election date draws near and controversy stirs around a proposed sales tax increase in Citrus Heights, campaigns on both sides of the measure say their signs have been stolen, damaged, or defaced.
In a statement with photos submitted to The Sentinel by the Yes on Measure M campaign this week, spokeswoman Porsche Middleton said handmade signs were stapled on top of a large “Yes on M” sign on Sunday, making the sign instead read “No on M.”
The sign was displayed on Antelope Road outside A-Applied Mailing, which has endorsed Measure M. The shop’s owner, Ray Riehle, also provided photos of a separate incident he said occurred Wednesday morning, involving a “NO” sign being glued to one side of the “Yes on M” sign placed outside of his shop.
Middleton said there have also been reports of “smaller lawn signs being taken from private property,” and provided photos of one of her campaign’s large signs outside Walmart on Auburn Boulevard that had been cut in half, which she said occurred around Sept. 28.
In its statement on Tuesday, the Yes on M campaign did not accuse the official “No on M” campaign of orchestrating or supporting damage to political signs, but said such actions by individuals go “against the very nature of the democratic process that protects everyone’s right to express their opinion.”
Riehle also said he didn’t think anyone from the No on Measure M committee is responsible and said he believes “that they would all honor the political process and respect our rights as we respect theirs.”
No on M spokesman Bruce Lee said Thursday he was unaware of the damage to “Yes on M” campaign signs, but condemned theft or defacing of political signs as “immature behavior” that is “never appropriate.” He said some of his campaign’s signs have also been stolen or damaged.
Lee acknowledged “outrage” among some residents over the proposed tax increase, but said “this is never a justification for vandalism” and said the behavior “is never condoned by the ‘No on M’ campaign.”
The Yes on M campaign in its statement called vandalism of signs “outrageous, unnecessary and criminal,” and said it encourages law enforcement “to do everything within their power to respond to and punish these crimes.”
As of Oct. 14, police spokesman Michael Wells said in an email that the police department was not aware of any reports of vandalism to political signs from any campaign. Riehle later said he made a report to police on Oct. 15, but said he did not have video cameras covering the area where the sign is located.
Wells did not include a response to a question asking what relevant laws could apply to incidents of damage or theft involving political signs.
In 2009, then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed proposed legislation, AB 362, which sought to “make it a crime for a person to knowingly take, possess, damage, reuse, or move any political sign without the authorization from the owner of the sign,” due to reports that such incidents were becoming more prevalent. In vetoing the bill, Schwarzenegger called it unnecessary, “because current law already prohibits acts of vandalism or theft.”
California Penal Code Section 594 says defacement, damage or destruction involving value of less than $400 is considered vandalism and is “punishable by imprisonment in a county jail not exceeding one year, or by a fine of not more than $1,000, or by both that fine and imprisonment.”
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