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Opponents of billboard deal launch referendum drive

Posted: April 14, 2014 8:14 p.m.
Updated: April 14, 2014 8:14 p.m.
 

Opponents of the City Council’s vote to locate three electronic billboards on Santa Clarita Valley freeways in exchange for removing aging billboards on city thoroughfares have launched a drive to get the decision reversed.

Grassroots opponents of the decision have teamed up with outdoor advertising interests that stand to lose money on the city’s agreement with the county Metropolitan Transit Authority, jointly working for a referendum on the Santa Clarita-MTA deal.

Under an ordinance approved by the City Council March 25, the city would contract with the MTA to remove 62 billboards on transit authority property — most of it alongside railroad tracks on Railroad Avenue and Soledad Canyon Road — in exchange for construction of three electronic billboards mounted tall beside local freeways — two on Highway 14 and one on Interstate 5 — all three to be constructed on city-owned land.

The deal fulfills a longtime city goal to rid itself of billboards. But opponents say the electronic versions planned for local freeways do not offer a satisfactory exchange.

Opponents have until May 5 to collect 13,000 to 17,000 signatures on petitions supporting the referendum, said Patti Sulpizio, one of the organizers of the effort.

That’s 11,000 voter signatures — representing 10 percent of registered voters in the city in 2012 — plus a cushion because not all who sign the petitions will be qualified to vote within the city, Sulpizio said.

With a deadline 30 days after the date the city clerk signed and attested to the ordinance, which was April 3, and an extra few days because May 3 is a Saturday, the signature-gatherers have a tough task ahead of them, Sulpizio acknowledged.

“It’s a huge threshold,” the Valencia resident said in a phone interview Monday. “The numbers of signatures that you have to gather to do a referendum or recall — it’s a very high number to achieve.”

But, she said, “I definitely have hopes. I realize that it may not succeed, but to me it’s worth trying because I felt totally dismissed and disrespected when I went to those council meetings.”

The City Council heard from the public three times while considering the deal with MTA, and each time the opposition to electronic billboards was abundant.

Sulpizio said referendum petitions were received by the billboard opponents last Thursday, and signature collection was in full swing by last weekend.

On Monday, one signature collector who declined to provide his name was working outside the Walmart on Newhall Ranch Road.

“I have been circulating this petition for four working days,” he said, adding he has collected 300 signatures.

“About 60 percent (of those approached for signatures) have heard about the issue,” he said. “Once people know more about what’s going on, they’ll be able to vote more appropriately.”

If it succeeds, the referendum would either force the city to repeal the ordinance for the billboard swap agreement or force a citywide vote on the issue, Sulpizio said.

Organizers of the effort to overturn the electronic billboard agreement have set up a “Citizens Against Billboard Blight in Santa Clarita” page on Facebook.

 

 

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