Wu: A 'dumb thing caught on tape'

Signs, signs, sighs.

Everybody knows that signs do not win elections. They really don't.

And if you didn't previously know that, let me repeat — signs do not win elections. Hard work, knocking on doors and money — that's what wins elections.

An earlier version of this column referenced an Orange County official accused of stealing campaign signs. However, it failed to mention that the charges were dropped.

Signs are just distractions that build the egos of the candidates, upset the opposing candidates and just absolutely infuriate members of the community who feel that these signs ugly-up and clutter-up their neighborhoods, streets and sidewalks.

Plus, they could care less about so and so running for this or that.

So what is the hubbub about? Signs get stolen, lost, destroyed. That's part of every election in every city, every county and state. Just imagine how many Obama or Romney signs are stolen or destroyed.

Is it right? Absolutely not. Can it be considered sport? Probably. Have I heard really high-ranking folks suggest it? Maybe.

But what most people don't realize is that taking down someone else's sign is illegal.

When an Orange County public official was caught on film removing his opponent's sign in 2006, he faced a maximum sentence of six months in jail or a $1,000 fine. Now dollars to doughnuts, he would have never gotten six months in the slammer, but the real possibility was there that he could. The guy I am talking about had the charges dropped against him. Never mind the public embarrassment that getting caught brings along with it.

Tough stuff for something that is done as an afterthought while walking your dog barefoot, right?

Which brings us to the latest "dumb things caught on tape" moment.

Some of us have seen the video of the barefoot, bald, bearded fellow in Costa Mesa pulling the "Yes on V" and the Colin McCarthy-Steve Mensinger-Gary Monahan campaign signs down, ripping them apart and then throwing them in the bushes. If you haven't, you can watch it here. In fact, up to this point, it's received 1,900 views.

According the Daily Pilot, the Orange County district attorney is considering vandalism charges and the city of Costa Mesa is conducting its own "confidential personnel/administrative investigation," meaning that it's probably a Costa Mesa city employee who's dunnit. Mensinger has even personally identified the culprit by comparing Facebook pages against the still images from the video.

And both sides of the Costa Mesa battle have already started spinning.

Costa Mesa Sanitary District Director and Costa Mesa Taxpayers Assn. President Jim Fitzpatrick has put a $1,000 bounty on the positive I.D. of the culprit and held a news conference. Orange County Employee Assn. spokeswoman Jennifer Muir tried to put the blame back on the council majority for the sign stealing by saying in the Orange County Register, "Now they can't stand the scrutiny to their plan so they are trying to drum up a political diversion."

I guess Jennifer must have just seen the movie, "Wag the Dog," to come up with that doozie because how does the charter, and the swirling tornado around it, relate to some dude stealing and destroying signs … on tape?

And if you've noticed in the local papers, outside of that Mensinger comment, I have not seen one quote from anyone else in the council majority. Could I have missed one? Sure, but I've also not seen one quote from the council challengers either, so perhaps this is above (or below) the council members, challengers and the issues at hand.

Perhaps it's just boils down to some person, possibly a Costa Mesa city employee, who thinks if fun to destroy other people's property. Property that was paid for, generously I must add, through donations from hardworking folks who believe in a person or in an issue.

Perhaps it's just the actions of a person who does not believe in free speech, or who actually believes that signs that clutter up the grass next to their sidewalks, that fall down and start looking like trash, that have to be bad for the environment and nature, actually make a difference in elections.

That bald, bearded, barefooted fella walking his dog must really think that tearing down those three signs will really help his "side" and hurt the other.

He must really think that signs, and the lack thereof, really make a difference in elections.

And he must really believe in that enough to risk arrest, six months in jail, a $1,000 fine, and the public embarrassment for such a jackass move, that he absolutely had to do it.

Where in all that is political diversion?

JACK WU is an accountant who lives in Newport Beach and practices in Costa Mesa. He is a longtime Republican Party loyalist and a volunteer campaign treasurer for Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Costa Mesa). His column runs Sundays on the Daily Pilot Forum page. He can be reached at jack@wubell.com.

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