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Political signs take a beating

Posted: October 23, 2008 9:21 p.m.
Updated: December 25, 2008 5:00 a.m.
Left to right: Ruth Aldridge, Sean McLaughlin, Tim Vercellono, and Kay and Larry Bustetter had their political campaign signs vandalized recently. Left to right: Ruth Aldridge, Sean McLaughlin, Tim Vercellono, and Kay and Larry Bustetter had their political campaign signs vandalized recently.
Left to right: Ruth Aldridge, Sean McLaughlin, Tim Vercellono, and Kay and Larry Bustetter had their political campaign signs vandalized recently.

Republican or Democrat, residents of the Santa Clarita Valley are waking up to destruction or elimination of their political lawn signs, and they're united in their anger.

"Those of us who have served our country - and I am a Vietnam veteran - did so to preserve the freedom and right to express themselves," said Larry Bustetter, a resident of Valencia Hills, whose sign was stolen a month ago.

Pointing to a Sen. John McCain sign defaced with black spray paint, he said that, "those who did this are now mocking that effort."

Since the first time their sign was stolen a month ago, Bustetter and his wife, Kay, have repeatedly replaced signs stolen night after night.

Finally, they started taking them in at night.

"Two nights ago, I forgot to take my signs in; that night they were stolen," said Bustetter, who teaches public administration part time at California State University, Northridge. "We're surrounded by Obama signs that never get touched."

At least a half-dozen of his neighbors reported the same thing happening to their signs supporting McCain and the senator's running mate, Alaskan Gov. Sarah Palin, and to signs supporting Proposition 8, which would ban gay marriage.

The Bustetters have reported the thefts to the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff's Station.

Sheriff's spokesman Sgt. Darren Harris said deputies have responded to at least five calls across Santa Clarita in Valencia, Newhall and Saugus reporting their political signs stolen or vandalized.

"We've been to five of these calls since October first, from homeowners who claimed their signs were either damaged or stolen," Harris said.

"In one case, juveniles on bikes got off their bikes and were spotted tampering with signs," he said.

Harris said notes taken by the deputies responding did not indicate whether the signs were for one candidate or the other, explaining only that the signs were "political signs."

Larry Bustetter said he would be willing to testify against anyone arrested in connection with the theft.

And while McCain supporters suspect a thuggish Democratic element, The Signal received at least one report that political lawn signs supporting Democratic Sen. Barak Obama were either removed or defaced.

Although more complaints were about McCain/Palin signs being vandalized, the property crimes reported to the Sheriff's Station were across the board, and across the valley.

For Obama supporter Linda Cubbage, the only thing left of her campaign sign are strips of plastic clinging to the metal frame. She says vandals snatched the rest.

Cubbage wears an Obama-Biden pin and her sign touted her support of the Obama-Biden presidential campaign.

Democrat or Republican, the victims in the recent spate of sign-thefts stand united in opposing any criminal action.

"Mine was unusual in the sense that the sign wasn't torn up. It was cut out and the metal frame it sat in was left," Cubbage said.

Cubbage drove to the local Democratic headquarters in Newhall to get a new sign for her yard, but she said the headquarters ran out.

Sean McLaughlin, who lives in Old Orchard Two in Valencia, said having a sign stolen from his yard was a first for him as well.

"I was in shock," he said about discovering his John McCain sign stolen. "I would never think of taking something like that.

"This is America and we all have a right to express our views, and here's someone taking away my right to express myself," McLaughlin said. "I'm not happy about it, to say the least."

Ruth Aldridge, holding her infant son as her neighbors shared their sign-theft stories, said the recent spate of property crimes suggests more of a political statement that an act of delinquency.

"I don't think it's done by anyone who lives on this street," she said. "I think it's organized by people voting ‘no' on Proposition 8. For the people voting ‘no' to that - this is how they're fighting it."

Bustetter wants people in Santa Clarita to be on the lookout for people stealing or defacing political signs.

When Tim Vercellono recently moved into a house on Via Alcira, he moved into a sedentary lifestyle and into a settled community.

He found many fine neighbors and many McCain supporters, he said. What he didn't expect to find was vandalism.

"I can't believe that this happened. It was out only a day," he said about his McCain banner sign that someone defaced with black spray paint.

"We can't believe it," he said. "We had two or three stolen since then."


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