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SCV petition conflict escalates

County opens investigation into ‘blocking’

Posted: April 29, 2014 6:08 p.m.
Updated: April 29, 2014 6:08 p.m.
 

Attorneys for outdoor advertising interests sponsoring the Santa Clarita billboard petition drive have filed a cease-and-desist demand against the company they accuse of blocking signature gathering.

Meanwhile, the Office of the Inspector General for the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority is investigating allegations of “petition blocking” in the Santa Clarita Valley, officials said Tuesday.

The cease-and-desist letter, dated Friday and sent to Metro contractor Allvision from a Sacramento law firm, accuses Allvision of “improper and unlawful interference with petition circulators attempting to qualify a referendum to (Santa Clarita city) ordinance 14-02.”

Allvision, a consulting firm hired by Metro, did not respond to requests for comment Monday, but Metro officials denied any such actions.

The ordinance approved by the Santa Clarita City Council in March paved the way for a Metro proposal that would take down 62 billboard structures inside city limits along the Metro right-of-way in exchange for giving Metro the right to construct three, double-sided digital billboards on city-owned property off Highway 14 and Interstate 5.

Some outspoken opponents of the digital billboards launched the petition drive underwritten by a committee of members of the California State Outdoor Advertising Association.

That group criticized the deal between the city and Metro for bypassing the bidding process and proposing to eliminate some billboards belonging to association member Clear Channel Communications Inc. without compensation.

The committee, including Clear Channel, accuses Allvision of hiring “petition blockers” to interfere with the collection of signatures. Its cease-and-desist demand says the blockers are infringing on Santa Clarita voters’ constitutional rights.

“We are astounded and stunned at the lengths a government contractor would go to obstruct the democratic process, and intimidate voters, campaign workers and local families — all in an attempt to generate company profits,” Mark A. Kudler, president of the California State Outdoor Advertising Association, said in a statement.

A spokesman for Metro, however, says the agency would never be involved in anything so underhanded and questioned reports of blockers at petition collection sites.

“Metro is committed to a fair electoral process,” spokesman Paul Gonzales said Monday.

Asked if Metro has hired petitioners directly or through a hiring firm, he said: “No. This issue of blockers came to my attention and I’ve been trying to get to the bottom of it.

“I don’t know for a fact that there are blockers,” Gonzales said.

Four people involved in the petition-gathering scuffles outside local retail stores have been arrested on suspicion of misdemeanor offenses.

“It appears the signature-gatherers are fighting amongst themselves,” Gonzales said, noting at least some petitioners are paid per signature they collect.

The petitions call for the city to repeal its ordinance authorizing the Metro deal or put the issue to a public vote.
Supporters have until May 5 to collect approximately 11,600 valid signatures needed to move forward with the referendum.

Meanwhile, Albert MacKenzie, manager of investigations for the Office of the Inspector General at Metro, said Tuesday his office is investigating the “blocker” allegations at the request of Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich.

He also said anyone with knowledge that could help the investigation can contact him at MacKenzieA@metro.net.

“We’re interested in any evidence that the right of people to circulate the petitions in this referendum have been in some way interfered with,” he said.

 

 

Comments

Vtown123: Posted: April 29, 2014 6:56 p.m.

Signed the petition a few days ago at the cc movie theater. Good luck guys.


stray: Posted: April 29, 2014 7:17 p.m.

And the saga continues!


BBennetts: Posted: April 30, 2014 10:35 p.m.

The fact is that numerous videos on line document that people are yelling at people who sign the petition. The people yelling are not circulating the billboard petition, so the explanation that these folks are "competing" for signatures is pure B.S. More than likely, Allvision has hired petition blockers from out of state to come to our valley to disrupt this signature gathering effort. Metro knows all too well what is going on. Did the signal even bother to reach out to the grass roots group of local people that are fighting for this for comment?

The people from Allvision know how to game the system. Their lobbyist held campaign fundraisers for councilwomen Marsha McLean and Laurene Weste. Where was the story on that? There is shady business afoot here people.


nothingeverchanges: Posted: April 30, 2014 10:48 p.m.

metro is going to go at any length to get what they want. they always have and will continue to do so when they want. Look at downtown they wanted Senior Fish and the owner didn't want to sell they went to the city and claimed emanate domain. they ran that place out of town. I signed that petition a few days ago and when the Allvison petition asked me I told him take a flying leap off a short bridge. As a former Metro employee I saw daily how they flexed their muscle to screw the little person


Unreal: Posted: April 30, 2014 8:25 a.m.

Just like UNION THUGS they try to stop others from exercising their rights.
Shame on our city council for still not issuing any statement regarding what is going on. Where are the phone calls to the corrupt METRO to rein in their
pit bulls? Where is the public statement condemning this behavior in SCV?


bartman: Posted: April 30, 2014 9:32 a.m.

I saw one of these billboards on a trip back from LAX. They are very distracting, big and bright. I can only imagine how much electricity they take to run 24/7/365.

I am more confident now than ever that they are the wrong decision for our community based on the fight that has ensued. The initial website for opinions that was ignored, the community opinions at city hall that were ignored, and the ultimate back room deals that were reached only solidify my conclusion that this fascist attempt to take away legitimate businesses in pursuit of government revenue over the rights of small business is wrong and needs to be stopped.


elfkin: Posted: April 30, 2014 9:42 a.m.

Is there a website with the petition that I can download and get my neighbors to sign and mail it in?


ferdmana: Posted: April 30, 2014 9:48 a.m.

Like it or not, were in the big city now. The real question is, Why didn’t our city council address the issue of individuals disrupting the lawful practice of signature gathering in Santa Clarita? Why wouldn’t the Council even discuss sending a letter to Allvision expressing concern? With exception of Boydston they were not interested. To roughly quote Kellar he said, let the Sheriff Department handle it. This is not the City Council Santa Clarita residents need or deserve.


boneshark: Posted: April 30, 2014 10:03 a.m.

From what I've personally seen, this appears to be two out-of-town interests having a their little war in our town. When I see the signature gathers I always ask them where they are from and who's paying them. About half of them became rude and aggressive when I asked and the ones who did answer all said they were from out of town (most of them out of state). None of them would answer the question of who was paying them. On the other side, I have seen some heated discussions taking place, but I haven't seen personally anything that I would describe as "blocking signatures." So I can't really comment on that aspect.

Regardless of where you stand on this issue, our town has been invaded by the special interests providing a unique brand of entertainment in front of our local retail stores.


Unreal: Posted: April 30, 2014 10:21 a.m.

boneshark: These days most people hire a firm to gather signatures for them.
The people in SCV hired this company to gather signatures (the signature gatherers also have other petitions to be signed at the same time). They are here at on legitimate business.

The only ones not "hired" by SCV are the one's attempting to disrupt the signature gatherers.

The thugs blocking people have been following people, yelling at them, standing in their way so they can't get to the boards to sign, grabbing the boards and ruining the pages by scribbling on them, etc.


Unreal: Posted: April 30, 2014 10:51 a.m.

The signature gatherers are being paid by a company that the small businesses of SCV use for outdoor advertising.

It really does not matter who is paying them. What matters is that we all have a choice what we chose to sign and the opportunity to sign and support
whatever we want to. No one should be allowed to try to stop us with the methods being used.


stray: Posted: April 30, 2014 10:52 a.m.

@ferdmana - "This is not the City Council Santa Clarita residents need or deserve"


That's why me and my wife voted for you!

Please don't give up Allan - they'll be future seats available.


elfkin: Posted: April 30, 2014 12:31 p.m.

Well I stopped at Sprouts and was approached by a signature gatherer. He asked me to sign a "Keep the digital billboards". In short I asked who was behind the petition. He said "the city council".

So the question might be answered on why there is no comment from city hall.


stray: Posted: April 30, 2014 1:02 p.m.

@elfkin - "I asked who was behind the petition. He said "the city council".

Of course he said that... Don't believe a word of it! The city council DOES NOT want this petition to succeed; because that way, if they don't collect enough signatures, it won't give us residents the chance to vote on it! Then, the city council granny's will win and pocket ALL that money if the deal goes thru!

You didn't mention that you signed it, but "thank you" if you did. Your support means ALOT to us concerned residents here! Come on guys - get out there and sign this PLEASE !!! There are only a few more days to do it.

Any comments McLean, Kellar, Weste ??? I didn't think so...


Unreal: Posted: April 30, 2014 1:08 p.m.

Some weird cr*p going on around here.


elfkin: Posted: April 30, 2014 1:17 p.m.

stray: you didn't understand what I wrote. The signature gather said "Keep the digital billboards". Which is not what I want or you want. We DON'T WANT DIGITAL BILLBOARDS.

So in essence the signature gather said the city council is paying them to gather signatures FOR the Metro deal.


stray: Posted: April 30, 2014 1:52 p.m.

@elfin - "Keep the digital billboards" & "The city council is paying them to gather signatures FOR the Metro deal"

Now, I understand!

I just wish we residents could PROVE the council is complicit in this e-billboards deal !!! If the deal goes thru and gobs of money get stuffed into council pockets, maybe they'll vote themselves outrageous HUGE salaries... After all, the city tends to make millions in the coming years over that! Then, they'll FALL ONE by ONE just like the city of Bell ....

Don't ever think that it cannot happen here!

Remember, BIG money = corruption !!! It's been proven time and time again.


boneshark: Posted: April 30, 2014 5:30 p.m.

@Unreal...I completely understand that the interests behind this hire companies to gather the signatures for them. It's the way most of this works...I got it. It just seems disingenuous when people who don't live in our community are seeking signatures as they tell you, "it's good for the community." Especially when these same people could care less about what they're gathering signatures for. One week they could be in Santa Clarita gathering signatures for a billboard issue and the next week they could be in Georgia gathering signatures for a guns everywhere issue. I understand that's how it works, but it just comes off as so incredibly phony.


missyJk: Posted: April 30, 2014 8:51 p.m.

I signed today in front of Trader Joes the young man said they were going to count the signatures tonight he thinks they made the number they needed to have..It was quiet and calm i just needed to give my name and address no drivers license i am sure they can verify i am a registered voter


missyJk: Posted: April 30, 2014 8:54 p.m.

@ elfkin that's interesting because our signatures are to just get it on the ballot for us to vote on if the opposing side are gathering signatures too, sounds like its for the same cause, to put it on the ballot for the people of SCV to vote on


elfkin: Posted: May 1, 2014 9:09 p.m.

missyJk: When he first approached me I was thinking, great I get a chance. But when he used the words "To keep the digital billboards" a red flag went up. I talked to him for a good 5 minutes just to make sure I understood him, he was quite clear it was "to keep the digital billboards and get rid of the others.

The pitch was they could use the digital bill boards for all kinds of great things like "Amber Alert".

After reading the shenanigans going on, I wanted to make sure I wasn't being hoodwinked.

He was a nice guy, we also talked about other things. I just told him I wouldn't sign the petition.


Unreal: Posted: May 1, 2014 8:20 a.m.

I saw the 2 guys in front of Trader Joes around 3:00 yesterday. They were getting signatures to get on the ballot an option for SCV residents to vote on the issue of the Electric bill boards. This is what we asked for. The chance to vote on an issue that changes the look of our community and binds us to a contract with METRO THUGS for 50 years.

I was also told they think they have enough votes and that they heard that they may have more time to gather signatures due to the people blocking the signature gathers. They said a few blockers were arrested on Tuesday and that on Wed they had not seen any blockers yet. Maybe the cease and desist letter worked?



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