Menlo Park City Council Candidate Dave Bragg’s campaign has illegally erected signs on utility polls, said Former Menlo Park Mayor Heyward Robinson Friday afternoon.
The signs in question were posted on PG&E poles along major thoroughfares such as Santa Cruz Avenue, Ringwood, Willow and Marsh Roads. Robinson said these signs were clearly in violation of the rules that govern acceptable marketing techniques employed by political parties in town.
“Every candidate who runs for office in Menlo Park receives the rules on the posting of signs,” Robinson said. “I got them in 2006 and 2010,” he added.
Robinson shared the relevant section, which reads: “PG&E prohibits the attachment of political signs to PG&E utility poles or other facilities. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that third parties have no right to use utility property to communicate messages to the public. [Pacific Gas and Electric v. Public Utilities Commission, 475 U.E. 1 (1986)]"
When political signs are placed on city owned property, the Public Works department will remove them, said Margaret Roberts, Menlo Park’s City Clerk. The Public Works Department has removed some signs from central Menlo Park and contacted the political candidate to let them know their signs were in violation of local law.
Bragg’s signs were originally called into question by Menlo Park resident Katie Ferrick.
“I observed Dave putting a sign on a pole and felt I was doing the right thing by calling him directly about it to let him know that I had thought it was illegal,” Ferrick said. “He said he had checked with someone at the city and that he was told it was ok, and though I expressed surprise and disagreed it was legal, we moved on to discuss other topics,” she added. Later that day, she spoke with Robinson about it it, knowing that he would have a definitive answer about the legality of the act.
"I don't believe this should be a distraction from the race as there are important issues that need to be the focus of this election, particularly now that Dave is aware of the rules and has stated he would remove the signs," Ferrick said. "Clearly there was no intent to break any rules," she added.
Bragg concurred, saying he was misinformed about where signs can and cannot be posted within city limits.
“There are guidelines about public right of way, but no mention of power poles, so I asked someone with the city,” Bragg said.
“I was told it was okay to post signs on power poles and it was not until Katie Ferrick mentioned it was illegal that it had ever come up,” he added.
Robinson found it hard to believe that someone told Bragg that it was ok to place signs on utility poles. “Is this a case of ‘better to ask forgiveness than to seek permission?’” he asked rhetorically.
“I believe this reflects poorly on Mr. Bragg's judgment and suitability to serve on the City Council where he will have to understand and follow a myriad of guidelines, rules, and regulations,” he added.
Bragg highlighted the fact that Ferrick and Robinson have endorsed City Council Candidates Raymond Mueller and Kelly Fergusson as possible motivation for contesting his sign placement.
Bragg said he would be removing the signs and quipped, “Boy, this is starting to make me feel more relevant in this election than I have myself credit.” He said the signs that Robinson questioned were in Atherton.