Caltrans crews are driving through the Delta confiscating “Save the Delta! Stop the Tunnels!” signs displayed by Delta land and business owners, even though these signs are posted on private property.
According to Jeff Bennett, Supervisor at the Cal Trans Rio Vista office, display of such signs is in violation of Streets and Highways Code 54053, because our message is supposedly a political campaign message and political messages cannot be displayed within 660 feet of a public right of way. According to Mr. Bennett, our signs have nothing to do with the operation of the businesses at which they are displayed.
Never mind that there is no registered political campaign for or against the tunnels, as the State of California claims that the project can be built without a vote of the people. Never mind that the tunnels will have direct impacts on Delta businesses.
And never mind that growers in the Central Valley can display their “Congress-Created Dustbowl” signs up and down the I-5 within 660 feet of the freeway right of way. Jeff Bennett says that he cannot enforce the code in areas outside of his assigned area.
Its news to us that political campaign signs are illegal. But even if they are, the Natural Resources Agency and the Governor’s office don’t consider the Peripheral Tunnels a political campaign. They consider them the manifestation of state policy.
Actually, we now wonder if the bumpers of your cars are safe.
Restore the Delta will be making a trip to the Rio Vista Caltrans office tomorrow morning to retrieve the signs. Please call us if we need to replace your swiped sign so we can get one back out to you – and please make sure that it is re-posted 661 feet away from the public right of way. Maybe you can put it atop a building on your property?
In the meantime, please call Jeff Bennett, Rio Vista Cal Trans Supervisor at (707) 689-3480 to let him know what you think of his interpretation of Streets and Highways Code 54053. Please ask Mr. Bennett why his crew simply didn’t send notes asking people to move the signs before confiscating them from private property.
Also, please send an email to Steve Takigawa, Deputy Director of Maintenance and Operations for Caltrans, at Steve.Takigawa@dot.gov, letting him know what you think of the uneven enforcement of this law. Let him know how you feel about your right to express a message that is not part of a political campaign but rather a response to state policy.
You can also send a similar message to Tamie.McGowen@dot.ca.gov, Assistant Director of Public Affairs.