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Last updateThu, 23 Mar 2017 2pm

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Editorial: The 'signs' of a fair Hills election

It's still relatively early in the race for the Los Altos Hills City Council – six candidates are vying for three seats on a five-member board – but resurfaced candidate Toni Casey, seeking her fourth term on the council, is already making waves. Appealing to her fellow candidates' sense of civic pride, she has asked that they all pledge not to post campaign signs that she said detract from the pleasant, rural surroundings for which Los Altos Hills is famous.

We have no reason to doubt Casey's sincerity in making such a request. We happen to agree campaign signs are eyesores, and that voters are better off doing more extensive research about their choices than reading names from signs.

However, current Los Altos Hills regulations already in place severely limit posting of campaign signs.

Town code specifically restricts posting election signs on public property within 5 feet of a paved or improved portion of any public street, pathway or public way, among other limitations. And while signs can be placed on private property with the owner's permission, they cannot be illuminated, and their sizes are also restricted.

We think a far better pledge would be to ask all candidates and their campaign staffs/committees to refrain from eleventh-hour campaign mailers that rip their fellow candidates.

Such "literature" has been common practice in Los Altos Hills. In 2006, we reported on last-minute mailers from former councilman Steve Finn that targeted Councilman Breene Kerr for alleged conflicts of interest. This prompted Councilman Craig Jones to comment that the mailer hit a new low in negative town campaigning. Council candidate Colette Cranston, daugther-in-law of the late U.S. Sen. Alan Cranston, lost a close race in 2004 following a slew of damaging mailers sent just before election day.

The Los Altos Civic Association, of which Casey is currently president, has been accused of sending hit pieces against candidates it opposes. Hopefully, we won't see this occurring this election.

We encourage Casey to offer an anti-mailer pledge to her fellow candidates and their supporters. Eyesores in the form of campaign signs are one thing. But last-minute attacks through the mail (many of them anonymous) are just plain unethical and don't reflect well on a community known for its sophisticated residents.

As we said in a 2002 editorial, "Limiting or eliminating campaign signs is a good idea. An even better one is a signed agreement among candidates to talk about themselves and the issues, not about how bad the other guy is."

This holds true six years later. For a change, let's have a Los Altos Hills council race that focuses only on candidates' strengths and discussion of town issues.

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