Months after election, billboard displays ad against Measure J

The sign on San Felipe Road shows a No on J message to northbound traffic.

A No on Measure J sign remains displayed on a billboard along San Felipe Road, while state law is supposed to require campaigns to remove the advertisements within 10 days of an election.
It is now well over three months since the Nov. 4 election, yet the sign funded by “No on J, San Benito United for Energy Independence” remains up while visible to northbound traffic on San Felipe Road near the Wiebe Motel.
Voters in November approved the highly debated measure that bans enhanced oil extraction such as fracking while barring all petroleum activities in zones near cities.
Both sides of the debate removed a vast majority of the signs within days of the election. The San Felipe Road billboard owned by Outfront Media featured No on Measure J ads on both sides until recently, when a McDonald’s ad replaced the southbound version of the display.
As for finding a possible contact responsible for placing the ad, it turns out the No on J committee has dissolved, according to Kristina Chavez Wyatt, spokeswoman for the committee during the campaign. She speculated it was possible the billboard company didn’t have any other clients to fill the space, leaving the No on J ad still displayed.
And while the City of Hollister and state have laws related to removal of political signs, the county does not have an ordinance in place to regulate political signs, according to Francisco Diaz, bilingual senior deputy county clerk with the elections office.
That office did release a series of guidelines in October—in light of vandalism issues with election signs—citing state and city laws, and telling candidates they had to remove signs within 10 days of an election.
Without a county election sign ordinance on the books, though, it’s unclear what agency would be responsible for enforcement. The October elections office notice did mention that the county public works department—which could not be reached immediately before publication—does have jurisdiction to remove illegal signs.
The department’s ability to do so, however, may be limited.
“This is to respond to life endangerment and safety issues,” according to the notice, following the part explaining which agencies generally remove the signs.
Caltrans’ documents say the agency maintains the right to bill the responsible party for removal costs. Caltrans regulates outdoor advertising and political signs, but also may limit where, and when, the agency enforces the state law.
“If you’re talking about political signs within the Caltrans right-of-way, we do reserve the right to remove them if we believe they pose a safety hazard or distraction,” said Caltrans spokesman Jim Shivers, while stressing that the state agency balances “that activity with the larger work of the day.”
Correction: A previous version incorrectly said CBS owned Outfront Media. CBS Outdoor Americas was an independent company that rebranded as Outfront in 2014.

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