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Oakland's yard sign-gate

Ramos accuses opponent’s “petty” supporters of trashing his political signs.

Oakland Commissioner Sal Ramos told VoxPopuli he wasn't "blaming" his opponent's supporters for removing and destroying his yard signs a day after he posted this reel on his personal Facebook page, calling Shane Taylor's supporters "petty" and accusing them of removing and destroying his signs.

In the latest dustup in Oakland’s mayoral race, on Sunday, yard signs for Commissioner Sal Ramos’ campaign were found ripped up and thrown on the ground or missing altogether from the Johns Landing neighborhood.

“It just saddens me that people don't know the meaning of running a good race,” Ramos told VoxPopuli Monday in a text message. He said his signs had been found in the woods at Johns Landing. And he said that last week, eight of his signs had been dumped in Mayor Kathy Stark’s trash can and that his signs had also been found behind trees in Speer Park. 

“I am not blaming any one of Shane’s [Taylor] followers because we do not have evidence,” he said in his text.

In a follow-up text, Ramos emphasized, “I just want to be very clear that I am not accusing any of Shane (sic) supporters or have any evidence of them doing it.” 

Then he added, “I really don’t want you to publish this story.” 

Perhaps he didn't want this story published because Ramos was telling a very different story on his personal Facebook page. In a reel, where he described Shane’s followers as “petty,” he directly blamed Taylor supporters for the damaged and missing signage. 

“This is how petty Shane’s followers are becoming,” Ramos says, narrating the 43-second video as the camera pans over signs on the ground. “This is Johns Landing and Johns Cove entrance. All the signs that we had here for Sal For Mayor are in the woods, broken apart … and only his signs [Taylor’s] are remaining. We also have them in RaceTrac. That’s how petty they’re becoming.” 

In the accompanying Facebook post, Ramos added, “This is dirty politics at work.” 

Oakland Commissioner Rick Polland posted the comment, "They must be worried" while an Oakland resident commented that he "would like to say I'm surprised." Another urged Ramos not to be deterred.

Ramos’ sister Iliana R. Jones, who is running for Winter Garden’s District 2 commission seat, piled on in a separate post, commenting, “How cowardly, removing sign (sic) when no one is watching or hiding behind the keyboard to attack others. Nice going, Shane …” and “Wow! Petty!” 

Johns Landing resident and Taylor supporter Anne Fulton commented, “So on your personal page people are cowardly and petty but on your political page it’s in God’s hands? With all due respect, it’s in the voters’ hands. No one knows who destroyed either sides (sic) signs.” Fulton added that when she saw that someone had knocked down her neighbor’s Sal signs, she stood them back up because “that’s who we are as people. We don’t have to agree to be good humans.” 

Jones eventually deleted her comment and apologized and then called for both candidates to denounce the behavior and "ask their followers to be respectful of each other."

[Taylor has posted such a statement in the We Are Oakland Facebook group. As of press time, Ramos has not. As of March 13, the reel is still on his Facebook page. ]

VoxPopuli emailed Jones to ask if she had had evidence that Taylor or his supporters had vandalized the signs before she posted her comment, and if she didn’t, why she accused him without evidence. She did not respond. 

Shaun Fulton, married to Anne and moderator of the new Oakland Speaks Facebook group, said they were heading home from Taylor’s Sunday ice cream social when they drove into their Johns Landing neighborhood and immediately noticed there were no Sal Ramos for Mayor signs.  

“It was glaringly obvious,” he told VoxPopuli in a Monday phone interview. “We'd been used to seeing Sal Ramos signs sort of one between the other, like there's a Shane sign and a Sal sign. Everywhere. And some silly behavior, like putting a Sal sign right in front of a Shane sign. And you just think, Grow up. Anyway, we drove home, and there's no Sal signs anywhere. 

“But at the same time, I thought, This doesn't smell right,” Fulton said. “If you were going to do that, you would have to do it in the early hours of the morning or something bizarre. There's too much traffic and too many people around to do something like that without being spotted, you know? It just didn't make sense to me.”

He said if there’s evidence of people stealing or destroying signs, to produce it. 

Posting in the Facebook group We Are Oakland, one resident ventured that he’s seeing plays being called from The Dirty Politics Handbook: “… if your opponent is beating you with an excellent campaign, then try to smear his character by whatever means possible … Another play also in the dirty politics handbook is to blame your opponent for the things that you yourself are doing. I see that is happening lately…”

Ramos denied staging “yard sign-gate” himself, telling VoxPopuli “absolutely not” when asked if his team had destroyed the signs and tossed them in trash cans to make it appear as Taylor’s campaign had sabotaged his signs. 

Oakland Police have not received any complaints about missing or damaged signs, and Deputy Chief Mike Bryant would not speculate about who might be behind the missing signs or what the possible motivations for tampering with the signs could be. 

People take political signs "for the same reason we have graffiti and people that break things for no reason," Aubrey Jewett, PhD, associate professor of government and politics at University of Central Florida, said Wednesday in a phone interview. "People just pull up signs. They want a souvenir. They're being maliciously destructive but not for any political reason."

He recalls spotting a group of teens swipe a yard sign one evening during the 2020 election when he was walking in his neighborhood with his wife.

"It was just after dark, and we heard a bunch of laughing and giggling as we were coming down the street, and we saw a couple of teens grab a political sign out of a neighbor's yard and dash back to their car with their lights off and drive away, laughing hysterically. I'm pretty sure the kids weren't in the employ of the national [campaigns]."

Though it happens often enough that some campaigns have hidden Apple AirTags on their signs to track where they're going or learn who may be taking them, Jewett said he hadn't seen any evidence that sign-stealing was now the "tactic of choice" for kneecapping campaigns.

Taylor told VoxPopuli that about a week ago he noticed his own political signs had gotten “knocked down and cut up and destroyed” around the entrances to Johns Landing and Johns Cove off of Remington Road —the same area where Ramos said his signs had been damaged.

“It wasn’t a big deal,” Taylor said in a Tuesday phone interview. “We didn’t say anything. We didn’t report it to the cops. We just chalked it up to either kids playing around or maybe the landscapers that were mowing around the RaceTrac gas station there. 

Commenters posted these photos on Sal Ramos' personal Facebook page to show that signs had been damaged and knocked down in both campaigns.

“I’m not going to accuse somebody’s supporters of doing something when I don't have the facts," he continued. "For them to start pointing fingers and saying our guys did it or my supporters did it, that’s absolutely wrong. It's false. You don't do that. You don't know. You don't have proof.” 

In a post on We Are Oakland, Taylor described the accusations as “yet another instance of knee-jerk, baseless reaction designed to distract Oakland residents from the issues plaguing [Ramos’] campaign.

He continued: “Politics can amplify passionate views and sometimes, even cause some uncomfortable conversations. What’s important to remember is that a difference in opinion or politics is just that. We have much more in common than we do differences.

"If you’re a Shane supporter, great. If you’re a Sal supporter, great. If you support one another despite political differences, but remain neighborly toward one another, EVEN BETTER.”

Then Taylor reminded everyone: “Don’t destroy signs.”


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