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Council candidates steering away from signs

Posted: February 20, 2012 1:20 p.m.
Updated: February 20, 2012 1:20 p.m.

More media choices and a crackdown by the city mean Santa Clarita City Council candidates are largely avoiding political signs plastered around town as a method of campaigning in the April 10 election.

Most of the council candidates have said that they aren't planning to use a lot of signs, instead mixing traditional methods - such as newspaper advertisements, mailers and door-to-door campaigning - with newer methods, such as campaign websites, blogging, Facebook pages and Twitter accounts. Every candidate has a Facebook page and most have a personal website as well.

"I don't think that there is a magic bullet," said former City Councilman TimBen Boydston, who is running in the April election. "I think that you have to use all of the different avenues at your disposal."

Traditional methods that candidates named included advertising through mailers, The Signal, KHTS, and SCVTV, and contacting potential voters through phone calls, knocking on doors and greeting people at malls.

A traditional method that many candidates are starting to steer away from is the political sign.

Last February the Santa Clarita City Council passed an update to the city's non-commercial sign ordinance - which regulates political signs - that prohibits signs from being posted in the public right of way, limits each sign's area to 32 square feet, and imposes a $50 fine for anyone who breaks the rules.

People who violate the sign code a second time would face a $100 penalty for each illegally posted sign, and $250 per sign for a third violation.

Code enforcement workers actively remove signs from public rights-of-way without waiting for a complaint, said Cruz Caldera, community preservation manager for the city.

Officials wait for complaints before removing illegal signs posted on private property.

"We want candidates to comply with the city code," said Caldera. "For the most part, candidates have been really good."

City Council candidate Ed Colley, a Castaic Lake Water Agency board member, said the signs are often considered a nuisance, especially if they aren't taken down right after the election.

He considers them to be a type of "political graffiti" and didn't use any the last time he ran for - and won - his water board seat.

"If done responsibly, (signs) may not be a problem," Colley said. "But they're so often not done responsibly."
Fellow candidate Jon Hatami, a deputy district attorney, social media including Twitter and Face Book are good campaign tools, but he plans to focus on grass roots campaigning such as going door to door.

He said that he's probably going to put up signs eventually but won't depend on them for his campaign.
"What does a sign tell you?" Hatami asked. "Not much. It's really about connecting with people, talking to people."

Incumbent Mayor Laurie Ender said she plans to combine grass roots efforts with social media because social media is useful for gathering name recognition but doesn't produce votes on its own.

"I think having the Facebook page is a good way to get the name recognition, but I don't know how effective it is getting people to the polls," Ender said.

For incumbent Bob Kellar, while campaigning methods such as meet-and-greets, advertising in the newspaper and sending out mailers are still part of his campaign this year, he is planning to focus more of his attention on his website and Facebook page than he has in the past.

"I've got a lot going on, and I'll be happy on April 10th when it's all over," said Kellar.




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