Analysis: Sawyer-White falsely claims racism for removal of her campaign signs where they aren’t allowed or didn’t have permission

Campaign signs placed on city property at the corner of Hillcrest Avenue and Lone Tree Way on Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2020. Photo by Allen Payton. After signs removed on Friday, Oct. 2, 2020. Photo from Crystal Sawyer-White’s Facebook page.

By Allen Payton

Antioch School Board Trustee Crystal Sawyer-White, who is running for re-election in Area 3, and has had two of her large 4’ x 8’ campaign signs on city property in the public right-of-way for more than the past two weeks, and placed another on private property where she didn’t have permission, is now falsely claiming “racism” because they’ve been removed.

Yet, this is the second time she’s run for office so she should know the rules, that candidates and campaigns aren’t allowed to place their signs on public property, and can only be placed on private property where they have permission. It’s pretty common sense, and campaign 101 kind of stuff.

Post on Crystal Sawyer-White’s personal Facebook page on Friday, Oct. 2, 2020.

Sawyer-White has known since at least Thursday, Sept. 17 that two of her signs were on city property in the public right-of-way. Yet, after city staff did a sweep on Friday, Oct. 2 and took down all campaign signs on city property on the corners of Lone Tree Way and Hillcrest Avenue (not sure about other locations at this point), she posted a complaint on her personal Facebook page, Friday afternoon calling the removal of her signs “racism”.

She wrote, “Hello Everyone. I just stopped by to check on my sign since it was marked up with a mustache a few days ago. Wow! It has been removed. I have to be honest. This is the second time. I find it interesting that my first sign was removed on Hillcrest and the white candidates remain standing. We are in a pandemic and this behavior is straight up racism with lack of empathy and disrespect for humanity! Supporters let’s continue the fight for the 3-2 vote.”

Yet, during a phone call to this reporter on Sept. 17 Sawyer-White asked why her large campaign sign on Hillcrest Avenue near KFC had been removed. I told her that was private property, where the Wildflower Station development is under construction, and asked her if she had permission from the property owner. Sawyer-White said she hadn’t. I explained to her that she had to get permission from property owners before placing her signs and that the other candidates whose signs were there did have permission. I also told her that the developer – whom is a friend of mine and I’ve known since high school – would not have her sign thrown away, and that all she needed to do was go speak with his project manager to get her sign back.

I also told her in our Sept. 17 phone conversation that her large signs on the corner of Hillcrest Avenue and Lone Tree Way, as well as her sign at the corner of James Donlon Blvd. and Lone Tree Way were on city property, in the public right-of-way where they’re not allowed. I reminded her that campaign signs can only be placed on private property with permission. Sawyer-White told me she would have her husband go pick up those two signs.

For Sawyer-White to claim racism when all the signs of all the candidates were removed from both corners of Lone Tree Way and Hillcrest Avenue, and two of the candidates whose signs are placed on the Wildflower Station property with permission are Sandra White, who is Black, and Manny Soliz, who is Hispanic, is completely irresponsible, false and must be condemned. Frankly, throwing around such a serious accusation actually undermines real cases of racism when they unfortunately occur.

As for having her sign marked up with a mustache, that’s not uncommon and people also did that to some of my large campaign signs when I ran for city council in 1994. I jokingly thanked those who did so, because at that time I couldn’t grow a full mustache.

Illegally placed campaign signs on Thursday, Sept. 17, 2020. Photos by Allen Payton.

Over the following two weeks since Sawyer-White’s call to me, inquiries were made to Antioch Code Enforcement staff, Community Development Director Forrest Ebbs, who oversees Code Enforcement, and City Manager Ron Bernal. On Thursday, Sept. 24, Ebbs told the Herald that city staff would be picking up the signs that day or the next.

That same day, the director of Code Enforcement, Curt Michael explained the process.

“The campaign signs, the way that it works, is we identify candidates who have signs on city property,” he said. “We notify our admin staff to make a courtesy call requesting that they remove the signs within 10 days. If they do not remove them then the public works crews or the abatement team will remove them and then we store them out at the corp yard (on W. 4th Street).”

On Thursday, Oct. 1, in an email, in response to the third inquiry by the Herald earlier that day, since the signs had still not been removed from city property, Bernal wrote to Ebbs, “Forrest- will you please have Code Enforcement do a sweep of City properties for campaign signs?”

Ebbs, responded to the Herald and Bernal that day, “We will have all of the signs removed from the corner of Lone Tree and Hillcrest as that is City property. We will take a closer look at Lone Tree and James Donlon. The City does not own any separate property there and the homeowners actually own the slope below the wall on the SW corner as you can see in the photo below. There is some landscaped right-of-way on the NW corner. The NE and SE corners are all privately owned. If it’s in the Right-of-Way, we will have it removed.”

However, the signs placed by Sawyer-White and Antonio Hernandez, who is running for the Contra Costa Water District Board of Directors, were on the northwest corner of James Donlon Blvd. and Lone Tree Way, on city property, in the right-of-way.

An email was sent to Ebbs and Bernal, today, Saturday, Oct. 3 asking about the 10 days Michael mentioned, as that’s the rule for removing campaign signs after the elections are over, and shouldn’t the rule during the campaign be just two days or 48 hours? Please check back later for any updates to this report.

Why Does This Matter?

Why is this so important? As one candidate for mayor asked, “aren’t there more important issues to deal with?” Of course, there are. But this is pretty basic. If candidates can’t follow the rules while they’re running for office, how can the public trust they will follow them once they’re elected? Also, it’s about respect for private property rights. Just because another candidate has their sign placed on someone’s property doesn’t give other candidates permission to do so. How would they like it if someone placed a sign in their front yard promoting something they don’t agree with, or even if they do agree with it, doing so without their permission?

It’s pretty basic and common sense.

Candidates need to know the rules and follow them, and let their volunteers know, especially if you’re running for a second, like Sawyer-White. And they shouldn’t have to wait more than two weeks to comply or force city staff to waste their time and our tax dollars removing their illegal signs.

If you see a campaign sign you believe is on city or any public property, in the right-of-way contact Code Enforcement with he location at (925) 779-7042.

the attachments to this post:

Campaign signs 09-17-20

Sawyer-White FB post 10-02-20

Hillcrest at Lone Tree Way signs 09-30-20AP & removed 10-02-20 CS-W

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