Vista City Council changes campaign sign regulations

VISTA — Running for elected office in Vista? Be aware of some changes.

The City Council on March 8 approved a resolution that changes when campaign signs can be displayed.

The new regulations allow for signs to be displayed up to 35 days prior to an election, but signs must be removed within five days following an election. The previous ordinance allowed for signs 30 days prior to an election and 10 days following an election.

The City Council approved the proposal by a 3-1 vote with Councilman Cody Campbell casting the dissenting vote. Councilman John Aguilera was absent.

Campbell said he thought the change was pointless unless it coincided with the date ballots are sent to absentee voters. He said many cities allow for campaign signs up to 60 days prior to Election Day.

“I would rather see it 45 days prior to an election,” Campbell said. “(Signs) play a big difference because they may be the only exposure voters have to the candidates. It does create a more fair environment. It’s important, in my opinion, to allow for more participation in the democratic process.”

However, Campbell did acknowledge the unattractiveness of an abundance of campaign signs.

“No one likes them,” he said. “They are a necessary evil. But, the benefit definitely outweighs the negative.”

Tom Fleming, a candidate for the City Council, spoke during public comment and agreed with Campbell.

“I think the signs all look hideous anyway,” Fleming said. “But what is the purpose (of the proposal)? If the point is to include the mail-in ballots, the mail-in ballots have already gone out and returned before the signs even go up.”

Councilman John Franklin said the change in regulations is a compromise.

“Instead of increasing the amount of time, we shifted it,” Franklin said. “I’m not dead-set against (increasing the amount of time), but I thought the community might not appreciate it. There are always a lot of complaints about the signs. (The signs) are just one of numerous tactics that the candidate uses.”

Mayor Judy Ritter was short in her remarks about the change, calling campaign signs “trashy.”

“This will save us from looking at those signs for too long,” Ritter said.

The change in campaign sign regulations come after the City Council directed staff to examine the idea last year. The Planning Commission then approved the resolution by a 5-1 vote in February. Planning Commissioner Rick Rosaler voted against the idea.

On top of the length a campaign sign can be displayed, the city also has regulations on the size. Signs can be placed within the public right-of-way if they do not exceed six square feet in size and may be placed outside the public right-of-way if they do not exceed 16 square feet in size.

In other council business, the City Council approved changes to City Attorney Darold Pieper’s salary.

Under the change, Pieper will receive a five percent salary increase. His salary will change from $240,038 to $252,396.

The city attorney will also pay the full eight percent to participate in the California Public Employees’ Retirement System, a net salary decrease of $7,600. However, the city will establish a Retirement Health Saving Program for Pieper, and will contribute $10,000 each year to the program.

The change comes after a recent compliance audit of the city reporting process conducted by the California Public Employees’ Retirement System, according to a staff report.

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