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A general view of Fontana City Hall on Wednesday July 20, 2022. (Photo by Will Lester, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin/SCNG)
A general view of Fontana City Hall on Wednesday July 20, 2022. (Photo by Will Lester, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin/SCNG)
Madison Hart

Hopeful politicians in Fontana must now pay a refundable $1,000 deposit if they plan to display campaign signs around town.

The Fontana City Council approved the fee Tuesday, May 14. The fee ordinance went into effect the same day.

Candidates running for city offices in the November 2024 election will be required to pay the deposit fee. The deposit is “a measure to ensure accountability among candidates and reimburses the city for costs associated with removing non-compliant campaign signs,” according to a report prepared by city officials.

The city intends to remove any signs in public rights of way belonging to candidates who have not paid a deposit. The city would remove the signs and bill candidates, though there is currently no process for that. In addition, the city may expand the deposit requirement to candidates seeking other offices, even state legislative seats.

Bobbi Jo Chavarria, a former mayoral candidate who spoke at Tuesday’s meeting, called the deposit a deterrent for future council candidates in Fontana.

While a $1,000 fee may be “no big sweat” for some, Chavarria said, “$1,000, even for someone who makes above the poverty wage, is still a huge request, and burden on a grassroots candidate to have their money tied up for an election cycle.”

Under the ordinance adopted Tuesday, the fee would be refunded to candidates after the election if they adhere to city campaign sign regulations, including size limitations, placement restrictions and cleanup for signs in the public right of way. The fee will be waived for candidates who choose not to display campaign signs, or for candidates with incomes 50% less than the median wage in Fontana.

“This is just to get back the funding that our staff’s time is taking out there,” Mayor Acquanetta Warren said at the meeting. “No one’s benefitting from this financially up here.”

Fontana resident Stacey Ramos, another speaker at the meeting, said running for office should be accessible to all.

“Having $1,000 to pay up front to put one sign up can actually be a detrimental effect for folks, who are like me, who don’t get the money you guys get to run for office,” Ramos told the council.

The council voted 4-1 to approve the sign deposit fee, with Councilmember Jesus “Jesse” Sandoval the sole dissenting vote. Sandoval questioned city staffers about the deposit, but did not specify why he voted against it.

Fontana voters will see City Council districts 2 and 3 on the Nov. 5 ballot.

Sandoval currently holds the District 2 seat, and Councilmember Peter Garcia currently holds the seat in District 3.

The ballot will also include two seats on the Fontana Unified School District school board, in areas 3 and 4.

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