Home > elections > Fennell flouts Fortuna law

Fennell flouts Fortuna law

Back when she was Executive Director of the Humboldt Coalition for Property Rights (HumCPR) Estelle Fennell made the curious statement that “subdividing a parcel doesn’t mean it’s a subdivision.”

Now that she’s running for 2nd district Humboldt County Supervisor, Fennell says a giant billboard in Fortuna telling voters to elect her in June is “not a political sign; it’s an ad.”

Fortuna city regs limit campaign signage to 30 days before an election. City Manager Duane Rigge has asked her campaign to play within the rules “in the spirit of civic mindedness and fair play.” But Fennell is again using semantic gymnastics to get around the city ordinance.

One can only imagine how she would interpret local and state laws if elected.

  1. tra
    April 9, 2012 at 9:00 pm

    Given that it says “Vote Estelle Fennell Supervisor,” yes, it’s a campaign sign.

    But it’s also on an existing billboard, meaning that if Estelle’s message wasn’t on there, some other ad would be. In that sense, it’s an advertisement like any other, as opposed to, say, a yard sign.

    From a First Amendment point of view, I think Estelle’s campaign may have a point, and the City may be on shaky ground. Political speech is supposed to be more protected than commercial speech, and yet here is a regulation that specifically outlaws political speech, while allowing commercial speech in the same space.

    As a practical matter, it’s probably not going to make much difference either way, since neither a billboard, nor a controversy over a billboard, is going to sway many voters one way or the other.

  2. What Now
    April 9, 2012 at 9:01 pm

    “It depends on what the definition of ‘is’ is.”


  3. Anonymous
    April 9, 2012 at 9:33 pm

    Of course we are all waiting with baited breath to discover just what indeed will in tra’s opinion will sway a voter’ opinion.

  4. Mitch
    April 9, 2012 at 9:35 pm


    Mouthwash might help.

  5. Parke Bostrom
    April 9, 2012 at 9:57 pm

    “Fortuna city regs limit campaign signage to 30 days before an election.”

    Fortuna city regs are probably unconstitutional.

  6. tra
    April 9, 2012 at 10:00 pm

    Anon 9:33,

    What sways a voter’s opinion? Well, for starters, the reputations of the candidates, their positions on issues, the record of the incumbent, the qualifications of both of the candidates, endorsements, media coverage, debate performances, and, probably most importantly, the opinions of the voter’s friends, colleagues and family members.

    In my opinon, the only thing a billboard like this can have any real effect on is “name recognition,” and presumably that’s why Fennell’s campaign is paying for it. So to the extent that the sign increases Fennell’s name recognition in Fortuna, it may have some effect.

    As the incumbent, and as inheritor of a last name that’s well-known thanks to his family’s apple-cider business (just about every resident of Humboldt County has probably seen the large billboard on the highway with his name on it), Clendenen probably still has a fairly substantial advantage in name-recognition, at least in the Fortuna area. No doubt his supporters would prefer that it stay that way.

  7. Anonymous
    April 9, 2012 at 10:19 pm

    It’s Estell’s statement that has swayed my opinion, I’ll vote for Cliff.

  8. anon
    April 9, 2012 at 10:37 pm

    the question that should be asked to estelle is how is the big special interest money given to her going to affect her votes, should she be elected…
    (and the anon troll within me thinks she will mealymouth her way around the question, like all “good” politicians…)

  9. tra
    April 9, 2012 at 10:49 pm

    I expect her response would be that campaign contributions won’t sway her vote, same as Clif would have told you about the thousands he got last time around from the Blue Lake Casino, and same as Bonnie Neeley would have told you about the thousands she got from Foster-Gill, the out-of-area megadeveloper that wants to build a massive suburban subdivision in Cutten.

  10. Anonymous
    April 9, 2012 at 10:52 pm

    Estelle is a phony.

  11. Anonymous
    April 9, 2012 at 10:55 pm

    A political sigh is not an ad: it does not need to be paid for. An ad is protected by the First Amendment. Political signs are covered by the local law including land use ordinances.

  12. toto
    April 9, 2012 at 11:02 pm

    If you don’t believe this, try posting 25 McCain or Obama sighs from your past election, on your front yard in Fortuna. Think about it. Would you like your neighbor to do this now?

  13. tra
    April 9, 2012 at 11:07 pm

    I’m not sure that really makes sense 10:55. You seem to be arguing that it is O.K. for a municipality to restrict unpaid campaign signs, but not O.K. to restrict paid campaign signs (“ads”)?

    Frankly I don’t think it’s a good idea to restrict either one. Either way, it has the effect of reducing opportunities for challengers to (at least partially) counteract the name recognition advantage that incumbents almost always enjoy. Incumbency already has plenty of addvantages, and doesn’t need more.

  14. tra
    April 9, 2012 at 11:27 pm

    But I guess the City may be on somewhat more solid ground banning all signs, political or commercial, on lawns, whereas it seems to me that they are on very shaky ground with a rule that attempts to restrict billboards from being used for political advertising, while allowing billboards for commercial advertising. But it still seems to be a pretty weak argument. Because sometimes campaign signs are put up in the windows of shops and offices, where it’s certainly normal to have commercial advertising signs. Which again raises the question, is it constitutionally acceptable for the City to decree that a space available for commercial signs isn’t available for political signs? Again, the First Amendment is supposed to confer it’s greatest level of protection to political speech, greater than that afforded to commercial speech, and yet this ordinance would appear to do just the opposite.

  15. tra
    April 9, 2012 at 11:29 pm

    It will be interesting to see where this goes from here. If Estelle’s campaign backs down and removes the billboard I guess that would be the end of it, but if they don’t, I’m not sure what happens next — will the City attempt to fine her campaign or whoever is renting her the billboard, or both? Or are we looking at a possible complaint to the Fair Political Practices Commission?

    My guess is that this “controversy” will not swing too many votes one way or the other in the June election. Clendenen supporters will play up this angle about Fennell “flouting” the rules, and Fennell’s supporters will claim the First Amendment high ground, and if Fennell’s campaign refuses to back down and the City tries to pursue some kind of sanctions, the applicability and underlying legality (or lack thereof) of the City’s ordinance will be resolved in court…probably long after the election. Meanwhile, I doubt that too many of those who haven’t yet made up their minds for one candidate or the other will care all that much one way or the other. Maybe I’m wrong about that, and this will become an important issue in the campaign…but I doubt it.

  16. Anonymous
    April 9, 2012 at 11:31 pm

    I don’t see how an already established billboard that happens to now carry a campaign message flouts an ordinance designed to regulate temporary signage in environments that don’t normally have signage. If any sort of complaint is filed, I don’t see it being successful.

  17. Anonymous
    April 9, 2012 at 11:35 pm

    Some people accuse politicians of being on the payroll of special interest when they run for or take office. Well in Estelle’s case, she already was on the payroll of Lee Ulansey and Bill Barnum. Now they and the contractors who stand to profit with them are trying to get us taxpayers to pay this employee’s wages for them, but you can bet she’ll still be working for their special interest just as she’s been doing on staff at HumCPR. Any “back-to-the-landers” who think HumCPR has their best interest at heart, will have that heart broken when they see that everything thought they were leaving behind all those years ago, will have now followed them here, to one of last under developed corners of this very populous State. With the more modest projections say we’ll be going from 35 million to over 50 million residents over the next 20 years. And we’ll have a totally unique situation where the largest segment of the population (the baby boomers) are entering retirement and don’t need a job when they move here to buy those new houses that even at top (Humboldt) dollar, are a bargain compared to what they can sell their house for in the parts of the state that the developers have already had their way with. Oh right, Lee and Bill, it’s about code enforcement and being able to build that tepee on your property, we believe you. Please tell us another one, I’m not sleepy yet.

  18. Anonymous
    April 9, 2012 at 11:36 pm

    Parke Bostrom, Arcata had/has an ordinance that an forbid a fast food restaurant from using styrofoam containers. Arcata declared it a nuclear free zone. Washington DC decided Walmart couldn’t build stores (because they are non union essentially).

    Maybe you ought to really read the constitution ! And maybe the Bill of rights too.

  19. tra
    April 9, 2012 at 11:39 pm

    Well if the language of the ordinance clearly doesn’t apply to existing billboards, then that will be the end of the issue.

    If it appears to be written in such a way that it could be interpreted as applying to existing billboards, then the question will be whether the City has the power to do that or not, given the First Amendment issues.

    I haven’t read the text of the law, so for all I know maybe it does appear to cover billboards. If it does, then the question would be whether similar retrictions have been upheld or struck down by the courts in other cities. And I guess it’s possible that no clear precedent exists, in which case there could be a real fight.

  20. Anonymous
    April 10, 2012 at 4:33 am

    I rarely read much of tra’s posts because I have long since considered him a HumCPR troll. Nevermind he is full of himself.

  21. just middle class
    April 10, 2012 at 6:31 am

    Being a good supervisor means the ability to understand the details of a situation rather than blindly listening to staff. Estelle is showing the exact skills necessary for a good supervisor by NOT blindly following staff (Dwayne’s) position on an issue.
    Yes, there is a difference between placing campaign signs and renting space on a billboard, and good for her to know the difference, but can’t expect this blog to indicate that she is doing well, and expect it to continue to take comments out of context.

  22. Just No Brains
    April 10, 2012 at 7:01 am

    Yeah, people who are or aspire to be Law Makers don´t have to follow the laws, they can pick and choose.

  23. Just No Brains
    April 10, 2012 at 7:07 am

    ¨blindly listening¨ Dwayne is County staff? No comment on the last paragraph as it is unintelligible.

  24. Gil Yule
    April 10, 2012 at 7:10 am

    I wish that Fennell’s sign had been an option on the North Coast Journal’s “Ugliest Billboard” contest. That is certainly one ugly billboard and would surly have been a top competitor.

    I really would like to support Fennell, we agree on so many issues but every now and again she takes these weird positions such as her association with the HumCPR group and now this signage thing that I simply can’t count on her and won’t support her run for council.

    And by-the-way, constitutionally okay or not this billboard is most certainly a campaign ad and is thumbing its nose at Fortuna’s ordinance.

  25. Yokel
    April 10, 2012 at 7:36 am

    Fennell is a Lobbyist. No questions asked.

    Clif Clendenen is an independent local and deserves another term.

  26. Anonymous
    April 10, 2012 at 7:43 am

    Read the ordinance. Fortuna’s website has it. It exempts changes in copy on existing signs. It is a zoning ordinance relating to the placement and erection of new signs and temporary political yard signs. But since copy changes on existing signs is exempted, changing the content/copy of an existing billboard structure is exemot from the ordinance. That is why Fortuna has done nothing about the billboard. It can’t, because the changing of copy on an existing billboard is not regulated by their ordinance. Maybe if HH understood the ordinance we would not have seen this post. Not likely, though.

  27. April 10, 2012 at 8:07 am

    Estelle says a political sign is not a political sign. Just like she said a subdivision is not a subdivision.

    What will she argue next?

  28. Mitch
    April 10, 2012 at 8:15 am

    I’m really uncertain about this one.

    It does seem clear that Fortuna is zoning lawn signs, in an attempt to keep them from dominating neighborhoods.

    This is not a lawn sign, it’s a billboard. The billboard existed before and it will exist after. I’m not sure why a candidate can be restricted from buying that space to present their message, when a business cannot be.

    But, as I said, I’m not certain at all.

  29. Smart 5th Grader
    April 10, 2012 at 8:26 am

    Constitutionally, I would defend her right to put up a sign year-round. For me, this is more an ¨ethcal¨ issue rather than a ¨legal¨ issue. That being, the spirit of fair play in an election race and having a (potential) County Supervisor who doesn´t stand the law on it´s head like a Los Angeles Attorney. But it all depends on what your definition of ¨is¨ is.

  30. Anonymous
    April 10, 2012 at 8:30 am

    Heraldo, is that a political sign for Cheryl Siedner or your blog or just an advertisement?

  31. Don Draper
    April 10, 2012 at 8:32 am

    If the sign is the one with her picture, I thought it was an ad for a new marie callanders style restaurant. And whats up with all the stars?

  32. Just No Brains
    April 10, 2012 at 8:48 am

    Anon 830. Let´s ask the lawyers, or the BOS, or the Fortucky City Council. ¨Can we put up a sign saying ¨George Washington for President´¨´? I will be asking the FPPC to rule on this. Should be interesting.

  33. Owlboy
    April 10, 2012 at 8:50 am

    How will she interpret local,state law ? Like an adult. Unlike our current sup.

  34. High Finance
    April 10, 2012 at 9:15 am

    I don’t get it.

    You on the left say the mentally ill people on the Courthouse steps should be able to put any sign anywhere at anytime.

    Now you turn around and say Fennell cannot ?

  35. Smart 5th Grader
    April 10, 2012 at 9:37 am

    High Finance says: April 10, 2012 at 9:15 am ¨I don’t get it.¨

    Of course you don´t. That´s why you have to make up other people´s point of view.

  36. tra
    April 10, 2012 at 10:01 am


    In the case of the protest at the courthouse, no one is claiming that anyone can put up any sign anywhere at anytime, the claim is that people should be allowed to put up signs on a fence that was erected which prevented people from standing on the courthouse lawn, a place where people have always been allowed to hold political signs. But you know this.

  37. Mitch
    April 10, 2012 at 10:12 am

    I fully understand that it’s not a serious question, but I’ll try to give it a serious answer.

    Everyone has a right to “peaceable assembly, to petition the government” and to freedom of speech. As several people have noted, these rights are not absolute.

    Nobody has the right to exercise freedom of speech by aggressively approaching innocent bystanders. Nobody can call public defecation a “symbolic act” and get around the sensible laws against it. Nobody can even (for the last generation) declare camping a “symbolic act” and get around laws intended to protect areas from camping damage. But people do have a right to peacefully protest at the seat of government power. This includes using signs to attract the attention of passers-by, engaging with strangers in a non-harassing manner, distributing literature, and so on.

    In Fortuna, the city has presumably established a zoning regulation. I don’t know if it is constitutional or not, but it is clearly not intended to prevent people from communicating their candidate preferences. It is intended to allow them to do just that, while not overwhelming a neighborhood’s viewshed with political signs. A neighborhood’s viewshed may or may not be a substantial, legitimate government interest, and the suppression of “excess” yard signs may or may not be considered an “incidental” infringement on speech. But this is in the same category of laws as those requiring design review of a new building, or those preventing someone from playing music loud enough to disturb a neighbor’s night time sleep. You can’t use “freedom of speech” as an argument to keep your neighbor up at night, but neither can your neighbor stop you from playing jazz quietly on your lawn in the daytime, just because he finds jazz distasteful.

    In Eureka, regulations have been created specifically to remove the ability of people to assemble at the traditional location for protest, at the main government building. The regulations, as they pertain to freedom of speech, have only “pretend” benefits. For example, no sign may touch the lawn and no self-supporting structure may be placed, regardless of whether those actually cause any damage to the lawn. No sign may be hung on the fence that was placed specifically to push people off the lawn.

    I know this explanation won’t prevent people from their various propaganda efforts, but having put it here makes me feel better.

  38. tra
    April 10, 2012 at 10:17 am

    After reading the City of Fortuna’s letter (the text of which is posted on the NCJ Blogthing) it sure looks like the City is bluffing. The letter “requests” that her campaign follow the “guidelines” and the only reference to any consequence for not doing so is the statement that she risks initiating “intense community discussion.”

    Oh no, not “intense community discussion!” Heaven forfend!

  39. tra
    April 10, 2012 at 10:32 am

    I don’t know if the regulations on political lawn signs, justified on the basis of protecting neighbors’ “viewsheds,” is a good idea or not, but that justification certainly doesn’t work for an existing billboard…unless you think that replacing Estelle’s sign with yet another advertisement for a casino or a car dealership makes for a better “viewshed.”

    And as someone noted above, the regulation on lawn signs allows (at least during the prescribed 40 day period) political signs where normally no signs, political OR commercial, are allowed. In other words it grants greater rights to political speech than to commercial speech, which is certainly in the spirit of First Amendment jurisprudence.

    But it seems to me that attempting to apply the 40 day window restriction and size restrictions to political advertisements on existing billboards turns First Amendment jurisprudence on its head, as it would specifically restrict political advertising while not restricting commercial advertising in the same space.

  40. longwinds
    April 10, 2012 at 10:40 am

    Let’s see, when county government flouts the law by refusing to release public budget information, and evokes yet another unwinnable lawsuit, it’s undiscussable here. But when Estelle rents a billboard we’re supposed to be outraged by semantics?

    I wonder what would happen if Clif could afford a billboard :^]

  41. Mitch
    April 10, 2012 at 10:48 am

    Details, please, longwinds?

  42. April 10, 2012 at 10:51 am

    Estelle’s response is more amusing than outrageous.

  43. tra
    April 10, 2012 at 10:55 am

    Section 17.05.180, subparagraph D, part (1) deals with “Signs not requiring a sign permit” and provision (b) contains the language about “political signs.”

    Meanwhile billboards are covered in subparagraph D, part (2) “Signs requiring a sign permit,” and there is no mention of political content being restricted.

    It looks like City Manager Rigge is trying to lift rules from one part of the ordinance and apply them to another part. No wonder Fennell’s campaign has declined to comply with the city’s bogus “request.”

  44. tra
    April 10, 2012 at 11:05 am


    What Estelle should have said was “It’s not a lawn sign, it’s a billboard, and those things are covered under two different provisions of the City’s zoning laws. We are in compliance with the provision dealing with billboards and therefore our billboard will remain.”

    But since you’re so easily amused, do you also find it amusing that supporters of the so-called “progressive” candidate (you know, the one who voted to criminalize candlelight vigils at the courthouse) are insisting that political advertising for a candidate should receive less First Amendment protection than commercial advertising for casinos and car dealerships?

  45. April 10, 2012 at 11:06 am

    Mitch, HumCPR filed a routine public information request asking how much the county has spent on lawsuits against its bogeymen like Bob McKee and others. These loser lawsuits (remember pepper spray?) are litigated by outside shops that have already been paid millions of dollars–but how many millions? Wouldn’t you think such expenses would be in a budget somewhere? Or do agree with the County that its bottomless lawsuit expenses should be in a black budget like the National Security Agency?

    The county has refused to respond to the public information request, so it’s been sued. Gee, I wonder how much it’ll spend?

    Heraldo, as you know, if I were Estelle I’d have better things to do than doodle with you. In fact . . .

  46. April 10, 2012 at 11:13 am

    Yes, TRA, that’s what she should have said. Saying an apple isn’t an apple is noteworthy.

    Is Clif’s campaign “insisting” on anything? The two reports I’ve seen and heard (NCJ and KMUD) didn’t say that.

    As for the urgency ordinance, I disagree with him on that.

    Is Estelle, a lobbyist for Bill Barnum, trying to claim the “progressive” title? More humor.

  47. Mitch
    April 10, 2012 at 11:22 am

    Thanks for that information. I hadn’t known about that lawsuit. As I’m becoming interested in the legal process, do you have any docket number or link? Thanks.

  48. tra
    April 10, 2012 at 11:23 am

    Rigge even seems confused about the lawn-sign provision. Even though it’s listed under the heading “Signs not requiring a sign permit” he goes on to claim that even those signs require a permit:

    “In all cases, a political campaign sign permit (no charge) is required to identify the proposed location for approval by city staff.”

    So, according to Rigge, the City requires a sign permit, even for “signs not requiring a sign permit.”

  49. tra
    April 10, 2012 at 11:30 am


    I didn’t say Clif’s “campaign” was insisting on this interpretation, I said that his “supporters” are…the evidence for which is right here in this thread.

    Nor did I claim the title “progressive” for Estelle, I pointed out the irony that is was being claimed for Clif, given his casual disregard of the First Amendment in criminalizing candlelight vigils at the courthouse. Progressive? Progress towards what? A bureacratic/police state?

  50. April 10, 2012 at 11:50 am

    TRA, the word “progressive” was introduced into this thread by you.

  51. tra
    April 10, 2012 at 12:13 pm

    Yes, Heraldo, and my point was, and is, that although Clif’s supporters claim he is the more “progressive” of the two candidates, he voted to criminalize candlelight vigils, whereas his opponent has said she would have voted the other way. And his supporters in this thread seem to be more than happy with restricting political speech more than commercial speech. But perhaps to some folks, pesky little details like the First Amendment aren’t important as they toe the party line on land use issues.

  52. tra
    April 10, 2012 at 12:28 pm


    The bottom line is that your post claims that Estelle is “flouting” Fortuna’s ordinance, but it looks to me like it’s the City that is attempting to misapply their ordinance. See my comments above.

    If that’s the case, she’s not “flouting” or trying to “get around” the law, she’s challenging a First-Amendment-offending misapplication of the law.

  53. April 10, 2012 at 12:34 pm

    Well, at least she has you to clarify what she means to say since what she says in non-sensical.

  54. tra
    April 10, 2012 at 12:48 pm

    Only the most feebleminded, or blindly partisan, would have needed more clarification after hearing the KMUD interview, as you said you did. You are not feebleminded. So it looks to me like you must have understood full well the difference between a billboard and a lawn sign, and chose to pretend you didn’t, by lifting a few of Estelle’s words out of context in an attempt to paint her in a negative light.

    So yes, I’m happy to help clarify that which you have attempted to obfuscate.

  55. April 10, 2012 at 1:18 pm

    If it was so clear it’s strange Estelle failed to articulate it better than she did.

  56. April 10, 2012 at 1:36 pm

    Hey Mitch at 11:22, sorry I was in three-dimensional space. Here’s a press release on the lawsuit prompted by the county’s refusal to say how many millions of dollars it has spent on political lawsuits:


    And thanks for the research and patient explanations, tra.

  57. tra
    April 10, 2012 at 1:48 pm

    Are you really claiming that you listened to the KMUD interview and read the piece in the NCJ and didn’t understand that her position had to do with the difference between a lawn sign and a billboard? I have a very hard time believing that you’re that clueless.

    On the other hand, pretending to misunderstand someone’s position, and then taking a few of their words out of context to support a contrived misunderstanding, is quite disingenous.

    Either way, not a great day for the Herald.

  58. What Now
    April 10, 2012 at 2:02 pm

    The Herald has dome a fine job on covering this, TRA.
    I know both of the candidates involved and they both have qualities to recommend them for this position and some that make them sketch for such a position of responsibility.
    Ignoring the fact that Ms. Finnell appears to be her own creative semanticist and attempting to improve in that area will greatly diminish her chances to take this seat from a “progressive” in name only incumbent.

  59. Not A Native
    April 10, 2012 at 2:36 pm

    Estelle has introduced a new element(cost factor) into local campaign signage. Some Fortuna people don’t like the new tactic which escalates(and maybe increases commercialization) political campaigns. It upsets status quo decorum and tradition, which locally is often more respected than law.

    I’d say that in this area, being perceived as too pushy or too aggressive can definitely harm a local candidate’s image. Some people are suspicious of candiates who flout their large campaign budgets by doing ‘flashy’ things. Yeah, a billboard is just another form of campaign literature, but its much more ‘in your face’ than handbills and mailers.

  60. tra
    April 10, 2012 at 2:42 pm

    The Herald has done a fine job…of propagandizing.

    Heraldo pretends not to understand Estelle’s position, takes a few words out of context in order to mislead readers, fails to even mention the First Amendment issues involved, and accepts, uncritically, the City’s highly questionable interpretation of their ordinace. Are we to believe that all of this was purely accidental?

    As we all know, Heraldo does not claim to be objective about the candidates, and that’s perfectly fine. But let’s not pretend this post about the billboard was anything other than the completely one-sided hatchet job that it was.

  61. April 10, 2012 at 3:09 pm

    Estelle said her political sign wasn’t a political sign. In any context, that’s rich.

  62. tra
    April 10, 2012 at 3:24 pm

    As far as the merits of the issue, it seems to me that there are two questions:

    (1) Does the Fortuna ordinance’s language on “political signs,” even apply to existing, permitted billboards? It looks to me like it doesn’t — Rigge’s “creative” interpretation notwithstanding.

    (2) If the 40-day window and 4 square feet provisions actually DO apply to political messages on billboards, then is that Constitutionally acceptable or not? I doubt this question will even be reached, because I think the answer to question (1) is “no.” But just for the heck of it, let’s take a look at how the Supreme Court has ruled in similar cases:

    Metromedia v. San Diego, 453 US 490 (1981) is the court’s only modern case on regulation of billboards (“offsite advertising”). The case produced five different opinions. Scattered among these opinions were five or more votes (a majority of the 9 votes on the court) for the following points:

    * while the government has a legitimate interest in controlling the non-communicative aspects of billboards, First Amendment concerns place some limits on billboard regulation;

    * commercial speech has less First Amendment protection than noncommercial speech;

    * regulations on commercial speech are measured under the Central Hudson test [described above];

    * the government’s interests in traffic safety and community esthetics are enough to justify a complete ban on offsite commercial billboards.

    * San Diego’s sign ordinance is unconstitutional because it has two fatal flaws: 1) it allows commercial messages in certain places where noncommercial messages (advocacy) are not allowed; this is a violation of the principle that noncommercial speech is entitled to a higher degree of First Amendment protection than commercial speech; and 2) the ordinance results in the city showing a preference for certain kinds of noncommercial speech over other kinds of noncommercial speech; this was a violation of the principle that regulations may not be based on message content.


  63. What Now
    April 10, 2012 at 3:27 pm

    Looks like 4 more years of Cliff, at this rate TRA.
    I was looking forward to a positive change but apparently your candidate’s focus will be on nonsense instead of substance.

  64. tra
    April 10, 2012 at 3:32 pm


    Repeating the out-of-context remarks doesn’t make them any less out-of context, and it doesn’t make this post anything other than an ill-conceived hit job.

    What is really “rich” is the way you mislead and obfuscate in order to craft your false accusation that Estelle was trying to mislead and obfuscate.

  65. April 10, 2012 at 3:34 pm

    This ham sandwich is really the Eiffel Tower. It makes sense in the right context.

  66. Anonymous
    April 10, 2012 at 3:36 pm

    Holy shit tra are you for real? Heraldos tactics of propagandizing and taking things out of context to support their position is what they do…been doing it since 2006.

    That you take issue with it now given that it’s being done to someone you support is not only laughable but downright unreasonable.

  67. Anonymous
    April 10, 2012 at 3:41 pm

    I think the sign is a great improvement over the previous signs. Like the one advertising “Turkey Bags” for marijuana packaging and the business sign for Delores Reeves, you know, the local mortgage broker who bilked elderly locals out of over 2 million dollars and is still embraced as a “good person” by the mucky mucks of Fortuna? Oh, ya, she was also one of the main players in the management Clif’s first campaign….

  68. tra
    April 10, 2012 at 3:43 pm

    What Now,

    So the First Amendment issues are “nonsense,” whereas silly hatchet jobs composed of out-of-context phrases and uncritical acceptance of a seemingly misapplied and/or unconstitutional law are “substance?” Well, that’s an… interesting point of view.

  69. Stan the Man
    April 10, 2012 at 3:49 pm

    Fennel is the George Romney of Southern Humboldt. She’s managed to switch positions so many times it’s dizzying. This latest gaffe is depressingly typical.

  70. tra
    April 10, 2012 at 3:55 pm


    Please. Ham sandwiches and Eiffel towers are not the issue here, lawn signs and billboards are. In the context of lawn signs vs. billboards, her comments make perfect sense. Could she have been more clear? Sure she could have. But you say you listened to the KMUD interview and read the NCJ article and therefore you muweere well aware of the context, yet in writing this post you chose to pretend otherwise. Ironically, your actions in this regard are a great example of exactly the sort of obfuscation-for-political-gain that you falsely accuse Estelle of.

    By the way, did you even take one second to consider the actual merits of the issue? I’m not sure which would be worse: That you didn’t even bother to consider the First Amendment issues, or that you considered those issues and decided to ignore them completely.

  71. tra
    April 10, 2012 at 4:40 pm

    Heraldo, you’d better not listen to last Friday’s interview with Clendenen on the subject of Eureka’s “urgency ordinance,” which came out as a toxic brew of stumbling incoherence, weird non-sequitors and bland disingenuousness (or complete cluelessness?). The effect is truly cringeworthy.

  72. Smart 5th Grader
    April 10, 2012 at 5:07 pm

    Jeez Herald, Tra´s really got in for you. Survival tip. If your boat sinks and you´re attacked by a Shark, do you know how to choke him? Send him to the playoffs! (trying to lighten things up)
    Okay Tra and Just No Brains, break´s over, back to hatin´ Herald.

  73. Smart 5th Grader
    April 10, 2012 at 5:10 pm

    oops, Heraldo. Also, it´s Alberto Pujoles (not Albert)

  74. tra
    April 10, 2012 at 5:26 pm

    From the California League of Cities website:

    I. Political, campaign and election signs.

    Special rules for “political signs” or “campaign signs” or “election signs” are common in sign ordinances, and pose a major legal risk.

    When challenged in court, political sign rules are almost always invalidated and the government is ordered to pay large attorney fee awards to challengers.


  75. Stumble Baum
    April 10, 2012 at 5:42 pm

    What tra just posted is the future of Humboldt’s “Urgency Ordinance” at least the signage portion of it.

    Pick a number any number up to $1,000,000. Taxes goin up……

  76. tra
    April 10, 2012 at 5:42 pm

    More from the piece on the California League of Cities website (page 24):

    To defend themselves, cities need to do several things.

    First, they need to convince the court that only commercial speech is involved and that if any noncommercial speech is affected, the effect is incidental and de minimus.

    Second, they need to show that the statutory scheme does not favor commercial speech over noncommercial speech, a constitutional problem that has been labeled the “inversion problem.”

    It looks like Fortuna’s ordinance, if applied to billboards, would have a fatal “inversion problem.”

    So it seems that for starters Mr. Rigge and whatever attorneys he was relying on owe Fennell and her campaign an apology. And then they’d better get busy re-writing their ordinance. Fortunately, the California League of Cities has a helpful suggestion:

    The easiest way to do this is to insert a “substitution clause” in the city’s sign regulations. A substitution clause allows noncommercial messages to be placed on any lawfully erected sign where commercial messages are allowed.

    For example, the billboard that Estelle’s message appears on.

  77. Fact Checker
    April 10, 2012 at 5:45 pm

    José Alberto Pujols Alcántara
    Nice, we´re moving off the hyperbole and onto facts.

  78. Smart 5th Grader
    April 10, 2012 at 5:55 pm

    It seems like more bloggers have been concerned about ¨semantic gymnastics¨ (i.e. that “subdividing a parcel doesn’t mean it’s a subdivision.” and “not a political sign; it’s an ad.”). I am hard pressed to find any rational ascertation that Estelle is a criminal who should be cuffed and thrown in the pokey (we only do that to 70+ year old Veterans in lawn chairs). ¨Flouting the law¨ is hardly an ascertation of criminal behavior.

  79. Not A Native
    April 10, 2012 at 6:00 pm

    The more tra posts hte more he’s proving that Estelle is losing votes over this incident. The issue isn’t legality, most local voters could give a rats ass about that. What they do know is when a candidate seems to be rude or impolite, it indicates to them how the candidate would respond to their concerns when in office.

    Just saying, if Estelle looks to be rude and using legalisms rather than courteous, she’ll lose support among those who value politeness. Of course, she’ll pick up votes of in your face, rude people with chips on their shoulder and a desire for revenge. Those type of folks are more typical in SoHum than in NoHum.

  80. tra
    April 10, 2012 at 6:09 pm

    Ah, the “uppity woman” meme. Your concern trolling is duly noted.

    This part cracked me up: “The more tra posts the more he’s proving that Estelle is losing votes over this incident.” She may or may not be losing votes over the incident (I very much doubt it) but my mosting more certainly doesn’t “prove” that she’s losign votes. It’s a complete non-sequitor.

  81. tra
    April 10, 2012 at 6:57 pm

    The following is from the majority in the Metromedia vs. San Diego case :

    As indicated above, our recent commercial speech cases have consistently accorded noncommercial speech a greater degree of protection than commercial speech. San Diego effectively inverts this judgment, by affording a greater degree of protection to commercial than to noncommercial speech…Insofar as the city tolerates billboards at all, it cannot choose to limit their content to commercial messages; the city may not conclude that the communication of commercial information concerning goods and services connected with a particular site is of greater value than the communication of noncommercial messages.

    Furthermore, the ordinance contains exceptions that permit various kinds of noncommercial signs, whether on property where goods and services are offered or not, that would otherwise be within the general ban. A fixed sign may be used to identify any piece of property and its owner. Any piece of property may carry or display religious symbols, commemorative plaques of recognized historical societies and organizations, signs carrying news items or telling the time or temperature, signs erected in discharge of any governmental function, or temporary political campaign signs. 19 No other noncommercial or ideological signs meeting the structural definition are permitted, regardless of their effect on traffic safety or esthetics.

    Although the city may distinguish between the relative value of different categories of commercial speech, the city does not have the same range of choice in the area of noncommercial speech to evaluate the strength of, or distinguish between, various communicative interests. See Carey v. Brown, 447 U.S., at 462 ; Police Dept. of Chicago v. Mosley, [453 U.S. 490, 515] 408 U.S. 92, 96 (1972). With respect to noncommercial speech, the city may not choose the appropriate subjects for public discourse: “To allow a government the choice of permissible subjects for public debate would be to allow that government control over the search for political truth.” Consolidated Edison Co., 447 U.S., at 538 . Because some noncommercial messages may be conveyed on billboards throughout the commercial and industrial zones, San Diego must similarly allow billboards conveying other noncommercial messages throughout those zones.

    See section V:


    In other words, a city cannot disallow non-commercial billboards (including political billboards) where it allows commercial billboards, and it cannot choose to allow some kinds of non-commercial billboards (for example religious billboards) while disallowing other kinds of non-commercial billboards (such as political campaign billboards).

  82. 713
    April 10, 2012 at 7:50 pm

    TRA –

    Thanks for the good info. Duane Rigge is a fool.

  83. Not A Native
    April 10, 2012 at 7:52 pm

    If tra didn’t think this incident is making her look bad, he’d simply ignore it as unimportant rather than dignify it with so much attention. All his denials and justifications prove he believes she’s losing support over this. At least he’s correct in that.

    But tra just can’t stop himself from vying to be among the top 10 posters on the Herald again this year, despite his resolution not to. And at the rate of his posts, he’ll make it again. Addicts are simply unable to control their addictive behaviors on their own..

  84. tra
    April 10, 2012 at 8:06 pm

    First the concern trolling, now the projection. Now let’s see, the ad hominem can’t be far behind…yep, there it is.

    Just another case of someone who can’t argue the facts, and can’t argue the law, so they attack the messenger. Predictable, and revealing.

  85. April 11, 2012 at 5:55 pm

    As a signmaker working in the industry, I’d like to mention that the sign industry has spent millions in court clarifying the fact that billboards and wall signs are “Free Speech” The problem is no one uses them as such. I’d love to make a sign that say’s “War is Hell.” rather than: “Century 21” but thatj’s up to the customer.

  86. Dave Kirby
    April 11, 2012 at 6:50 pm

    Tra..Estelle is a friend, its an Irish thing. But you’re latest posts have an air of desperation. Estelle is doing fine, its your defensive attitude thats speaks of doubt. If you are writing this much with two months to go one wonders if there’s enough bandwidth available by the first Tuesday in June. Go plant something.

  87. Pray Tell
    April 11, 2012 at 7:08 pm

    To be fair, Dave, a great deal of tra’s material is copied-and-pasted, not actually written, and no one should get there knickers in a knot over humboldt-freaking-county-supervisor, eh?

  88. Anonymous
    April 11, 2012 at 7:26 pm

    “The problem is no one uses them as such. I’d love to make a sign that say’s “War is Hell.” rather than: “Century 21″ but thatj’s up to the customer.”

    In college (mid-90’s) a group of students sought to rent billboard spaces around the bay with avante messages and non-sequitor art (to inspire thought and display pleasant imagery..etc etc in the thesis), but were rejected by the billboard companies on content clauses. Kinda lame…that McDonalds can put up hundreds of 50 ft. clowns to sell kids junk food but a group of college sstudents couldn’t rent the space for ambiguous content.

  89. Anonymous
    April 11, 2012 at 7:32 pm

    At this point, her adamant refusal to remove the sign despite the glaring and shady double standard she’s attempting to sneak past the mind of the uninformed public should be enough to shame her out of the race. She’s not stupid to what she’s doing with this.

  90. tra
    April 11, 2012 at 9:32 pm


    Your concern trolling is noted x 2.

  91. Labtech
    April 11, 2012 at 11:02 pm

    Can’t believe it: 90 posts discussing the merits of a politician who sees nothing wrong with shoving an illegal billboard in our faces.

  92. tra
    April 11, 2012 at 11:07 pm

    Except that it’s not clear that it IS illegal…hence the discussion.

  93. Anonymous but literate
    April 12, 2012 at 7:07 am

    Except that it IS clear that it is not illegal. The ordinance exempts changes of copy on existing signs. This is not rocket science, people. The charges against Estelle are simply WRONG. Politically motivated, but still wrong.

  94. doh@duh.com
    April 12, 2012 at 5:48 pm

    I dunno, I was thinking Clif was pretty good ’til I saw that billboard.

  95. April 12, 2012 at 6:55 pm

    Ah yes, the “Content-clause”..this is why only the biggest corporations in America; Nat’l 3M, CBS, own billboards. They are soooo into…control. I’ll posit that had people not been so against billboards they wouldn’t have been sold and resold to companies that had the legal resources to defend them. Oh well,
    Anyway, they’re pollution now. In the bay area they’re giant tv screens. Wait until they’re all showing the same picture…the stern face of some future President. Then we’ll know we really screwed things up. I blame Heraldo.

  96. grouchy
    April 12, 2012 at 10:18 pm

    FYI, the Latin term is spelled “non sequitur.”

    The candidates’ names are “Clif” with one F, Clendenen; and Estelle Fennell with lots of E’s and L’s but not too many. It shows respect and attention to spell names right.

  97. SoHumSlacker
    April 14, 2012 at 12:47 am

    Best new quote from Estelle, “Would MLK ask for a porta potty?”

  98. mo
    April 15, 2012 at 2:29 pm

    There are only two issues in this race that matter: Development and Water. Clif is on the correct side of those issues. The other candidate seems unwilling to give a direct answer on either topic. Does this have to do the monied interest that support her?

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