YES Greenway files police report for defaced campaign signs; opposition calls it a desperation move

Pictures of defaced signs that YES Greenway has filed a police report about.
(Via YES Greenway)

The contentious debate between the two groups — one for a pedestrian greenway, with the other for rail and trail — became more heated on Tuesday, with YES Greenway accusing its opponents of vandalism. No Way Greenway says there is no proof and that it’s the group’s latest “dirty trick.”

The contentious debate over the future of Santa Cruz County’s rail corridor ratcheted up Tuesday when supporters of a trail-only plan announced they had filed a police report over defaced signage and pointed the finger at their counterparts in the fight over Measure D.

The opposition, meanwhile, says the claims are baseless, supported by “zero proof,” equate to “dirty tricks” and that the accusation is little more than a media-targeted stunt.

Sutton Law Firm filed a cease-and-desist demand on behalf of YES Greenway, the group proposing to move ahead with a pedestrian and bike trail in lieu of any immediate future for a commuter train on the Santa Cruz Branch Rail Line.

It claims the group No Way Greenway has been involved in vandalizing and stealing campaign materials. The letter was filed by James Sutton, who is also listed as the group’s treasurer.

In an emailed statement, No Way Greenway organizer Mark Mesiti-Miller said: “Today’s stunt by Greenway is an attempt at distraction by a deceptive and increasingly desperate campaign that is reeling from the fact that they have secured zero organizational endorsements (check their website), while 30 local organizations have publicly declared their opposition to Measure D.”

The seven accompanying photographs appear to show evidence of YES Greenway signs removed, damaged or defaced countywide. The photos also appear to show additional evidence of someone the group claims is a No Way Greenway member or supporter removing a YES Greenway sign from what YES Greenway says is private property and throwing it on the ground.

Another sign YES Greenway accuses the No on D campaign of defacing.
(Via YES Greenway)

“Whoever is responsible for the content of those images does not represent our campaign,” Mesiti-Miller said. “Given the number of complaints we’ve been hearing about Greenway’s signs being placed without permission, we would not be surprised if the person who took down Greenway’s sign was the property owner.”

The letter, which names five recipients from the No Way Greenway and Friends of the Rail and Trail groups, was also sent to Santa Cruz Interim Police Chief Bernie Escalante and Santa Cruz County Sheriff Jim Hart.

While Escalante told Lookout on Tuesday afternoon he wasn’t sure if there was an active vandalism investigation, he believes more bad behavior will likely occur moving deeper into the election season: “It seems like it comes with the territory, unfortunately.”

The sheriff’s office was not available to verify that a report had been filed or whether an investigation was ongoing.

The Santa Cruz Regional Transportation Commission’s meeting Feb. 3 will include an informational agenda item dealing...

YES Greenway spokesperson Jack Brown said that vandalism has been “ongoing” since the signs were erected earlier this year, with the first vandalism occurring on March 12. He notes that another sign was vandalized overnight at Aptos Junior High, which the YES Greenway group is still investigating. Countywide, Brown estimates there are 800 lawn signs and 100 larger, 4-foot-by-8-foot signs that support the YES Greenway effort.

According to Mesiti-Miller, the No Way Greenway campaign signs have faced a similar fate, and he said, “We certainly hope Greenway is not responsible for our signs disappearing and we encourage them to ensure their supporters refrain from theft and vandalism of our signs.”

No Way Greenway advocates for a countywide rail-and-trail system with a commuter rail line and accessible bike and walking path.

Measure D — which would remove all references to railroad maintenance, rail transit planning and the like from the county’s general plan — will be put to voters at the June 7 primary.

A Feb. 3 meeting of the Santa Cruz Regional Transportation Commission is likely to be heated. Why? Commissioners are...

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