UPDATE ON SIGNGATE: Pro Wedel/Lawson Signs at the Library Back Up

The purpose of police posting these Wedel/Lawson signs at the library is obvious.

UPDATE EARLY THURSDAY: The pro-Wedel/Lawson campaign signs are back up in view of the new library's parking lot, hours after the Walnut Creek Police Association agreed to remove them from the fence that they were hanging from.

These photos show that two signs were affixed to posts that raise them above the fence. The posts appear to be standing on the property, adjacent to the library, belonging to Julia Maxwell and her daughter Elizabeth. Elizabeth Maxwell had given the Walnut Creek Police Association permission to hang a total of three signs on the fence that serves as a barrier between their property and the library property and Civic Park. 

On Wednesday, the Walnut Creek Police Association agreed to remove two of the signs from the fence. The signs promote the candidacies of Justin Wedel and Kristina Lawson. The signs were paid for by the Walnut Creek Police Officers Association, which opposes the candidacy of incumbent Cindy Silva. 

City Attorney Paul Valle-Riestra said that the city's municipal code prohibits any temporary signs, including campaign signs, to hang from a fence or structure within the "public right of way" or on any property owned or maintained by the city.

As the signs were hanging from a fence, there was  a dispute over who owned the fence, but the city maintains it. 

Police Association spokesman Randy Dickey said an agreement was reached Wednesday, whereby the association would remove two signs hanging from the fence that face the library. But the city and the association agreed that the sign posted in view of the Senior Center, on the rear fence of the Maxwell home, would remain in place because all parties agreed it was legally placed. 

"In regards to the two signs facing the library, the WCPA still believes the placement of Lawson and Wedel campaign signs on the Maxwell's fence are in full compliance with all applicable laws and regulations," Dickey said. "However, the WCPA has chosen to work in partnership with the City Attorney, due in no small part to his high level of professionalism and his collaborative nature, to come to a compromise that benefits everyone involved."

 If you stopped by the new Walnut Creek library over the past few days, the signs would have been hard to miss. They were black, blue and white and several feet in length and height, and advocated the candidacies of Wedel and Lawson over incumbent Silva in the Walnut Creek City Council race. 

The Walnut Creek Police Association's officer and management members have signed onto an effort to remove Mayor Pro Tem Silva from the council.

Although I never received  confirmation from a WCPA representative, I did not doubt that officers wanted to hang the signs at the library to gain maximum attention and to make a bold statement about what officers view as Silva's misguided and longtime support of the new library. They also have raised other issues about Silva's leadership, including her views on public safety in Walnut Creek and push on pension reform.

These WCPA Wedel/Lawson signs have been cropping up all over town. They hang in plain view of the library parking lot and are larger than most of the other Wedel/Lawson signs I've seen around Walnut Creek. 

If you'll remember, the Maxwells had their own battle with the city over its attempt to take over their older Spanish-style home that sits along the creek  amid towering oaks. The city wanted to use their land as space for the library. 

Elizabeth Maxwell said that a Walnut Creek police officer approached her about hanging the signs from the fence outside her home. "Ultimately, it is my mother's property, but I was approached by an officer," she said. "It seemed to be a reasonable request as a way to support city officers."

Someone from Silva's campaign, however, contacted the city, concerned that hanging the signs from that fence might violate city ordinances about campaign signs.  

These legal issues were discussed at several meetings Monday and Tuesday between Valle-Riestra and an attorney representing the Walnut Creek Police Officers Association, a group that represents rank-and-file officers and managers, including sergeants, lieutenants and captains. 

As part of a settlement agreement between the city and the Maxwells (attached as a PDF), the city agreed to construct a stylish fence along the entire boundary between the Maxwells' property and the city's.  

The ongoing cost and maintenance of the fence was to be the city's responsibility. Valle-Riestra said the question is who has control over the "underlying property" of the fence.  He said he not yet found case law that says that people cannot hang signs from a fence that runs between two properties. 


Elizabeth Maxwell October 10, 2010 at 08:52 PM
The wind and lack of technical skill seems to the be the culprit. I think some of the officers are supposed to be able to come by today to see if they can get them back up and stable. the problem is the joint of the PVC pipe that they are using to support the signs is right at the bottom of the sign. It just doesn't have the tensile strength to resist the gusts. I think if they brace this joint with something like lathes taped at the weak spot it should hold up. No doubt the people who object to the signs are thinking that God is against the WCPA... ;-) Anyway, all of this could have been avoided, and much less visible, if they could have just stayed on the fence in the first place.
kb October 11, 2010 at 12:09 AM
All this talk about pay and pensions and benefits...The real issue is the continued direction of the council in spending money on their pet projects and not providing for proper staffing (both in the police department and the other departments, such as public services). The library is done; no taking it back. But...Why do we continue to be the only municipality in the nation that runs an art gallery at a loss of $350,000 per year? Why do we have the 2nd largest arts, rec & cultural services program behind only the city of L.A.? Why are we exploring building the regions largest swim complex that will operate at a deficit? The list goes on and on, and it is indicative of a council that is out of touch! New blood with new views are long overdue!!!
Sadie Berkhimer October 11, 2010 at 12:18 AM
Thanks for the explanation Elizabeth. You are very correct in saying that this could all have been avoided if the paranoids in the Silva campaign and city hall had not gotten involved!
Elizabeth Maxwell October 11, 2010 at 01:41 AM
The signs were repaired today and are much more secure, so I don't think they will blow down anymore or be vandalized. Anyone attempting to tamper with them would have to trespass to do so and I think now they are secured enough to survive all but hurricane force winds.
obiwan October 11, 2010 at 04:47 AM
kb - Although I am not unsympathetic to your point of view, I am curious about your sources. Where did you find the info behind your "only municipality in the nation" and your "behind only the city of LA" statements? I tried Googling for info on arts budgets and couldn't seem to come up with anything.


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