Campaign sign-related issuesdown this year

ENCINITAS — Two years after the notorious “Signgate,” Encinitas saw a drastic decline in complaints regarding sign-related issues, but that doesn’t mean that there weren’t issues involving the campaign signs.

The San Diego County Sheriff’s Encinitas substation reported two calls for service involving reports of campaign sign theft and vandalism, and took no police reports. That is down from seven calls from service and two police reports in 2012.

The 2012 election included the now-infamous incident in which Jerome Stocks and Mark Muir were videotaped posting their signs hours before they were legally allowed to under city code. The video was posted on YouTube and later became coined “Signgate” by some locals.

The Coast News did receive one call about a sign-stealing incident involving some theft of signs of Encinitas Union School District incumbents Marla Strich, Emily Andrade and Gregg Sonken, but the Sheriff’s Department said no police report was filed.

There was, however, one group that has pressed the city in regards to its sign regulations: the American Civil Liberties Union, which has demanded the city change it’s newly minted campaign sign measures, which they say violate the First Amendment.

Encinitas officials changed the sign policy to specifically avoid this type of accusation. The City Council in March amended its policy regarding signs to allow homeowners to have up to two signs on their properties prior to the election season. Previously, the city’s rules did not allow for any signs to be erected before 30 days prior to and three days after an election.

The ACLU wrote the city in September demanding it be changed to allow people to post an unlimited amount of signs, saying that anything less would infringe upon a person’s constitutional right to free speech.

The letter cites cases in which courts have struck down similar ordinances as unconstitutional for the same reason.

City officials have yet to formally respond to  the letter.

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