By Seth Daniel
Signs don’t vote, as they say, but they certainly can cause low-level wars in City Elections.
Tempers have flared already at the City Council and among challengers concerning signs, and signs have become the centerpiece of several campaigns throughout the city.
Of course, the most controversial sign is that of at-large challenger Richard Penta, whose large sign on Lee Burbank Highway has resulted in a possible Constitutional free speech case against the city.
However, in one contested ward race, the sign wars have started.
“My signs have been ripped down,” said Ward 2 Challenger Steven Morabito. “I don’t know whose doing it. Even recently, my signs have been ripped down. I don’t think it has to do with weather. I think they were taken down in some way. I’m trying to run a positive campaign because there’s a lot more important issues in Ward 2 that I’d like to address. When you’re taking down signs, you’re depriving residents of their freedom of speech. Ripping signs down and throwing them in the street just contributes to the problems I’m trying to address in Ward 2.”
Meanwhile, incumbent Ward 2 Councillor Ira Novoselsky said that he doesn’t believe any signs are being removed maliciously.
“From what I notice, it’s weather related,” said Novoselsky. “I’ve seen them and it was when it was raining very hard. I’m being very honest about it. They’re tipped over and totally waterlogged. When I do mine, I waterproof them so none are hanging. They honestly, honestly looked water-logged to me.”
Meanwhile, there have been other accusations amongst residents and businesses on Shirley Avenue about intimidating people to put up signs. The issue came up when Morabito signs began to keep company with Novoselsky signs. Many residences and businesses that once only had Morabito signs, now have both Morabito and Novoselsky signs.
Novoselsky said there was no intimidation in that. He only asked if he could put up a sign, and was given the okay.
“I always ask permission,” he said. “I don’t go in and say, ‘You better do this.’ I always thought they were strong supporters of mine. When I went in and asked, they said yes. If I intimidated them, I don’t know how. I never said anything like, ‘You better do this or else.’ He just happened to get there first. I know he has someone in the Spanish community that’s guiding him.”
Said Morabito, “That’s all speculation at this point, but it would be completely wrong and no one should have to deal with that. If someone is being pressured, I think it is absurd and denies them their freedoms.”
Meanwhile, it was also pointed out that Novoselsky was violating his own sign ordinance by having two of his political signs on his own home. The ordinance reads that a candidate cannot have more than one sign for any one candidate.
Having two of his signs, believe it or not, violates the ordinance.
However, Novoselsky was quick to point out that his opponent also has double signs in several businesses on Shirley Avenue.
“If my opponent take down those double signs of his, I’ll take down the double sign on my house,” he said.
The sign controversies don’t stop there, though.
In a separate incident, one woman from Walnut Towers has been summoned to Chelsea District Court for repeatedly defacing Novoselsky political signs, writing ‘is a criminal’ in black marker on a host of signs all over the neighborhood.
That matter started when Walnut Avenue resident Al Blake came out his front door a week ago and allegedly saw Lidya Pasholikova in his yard writing on a Novoselsky sign.
“It’s unbelievable,” said Blake. “I think it has to do with Ira’s court case and my neighbor – the one who punched Ira last year when he came to take pictures for me.”
A police report has been filed and officers did respond to Blake’s home on Aug. 22, later making a visit to Pasholikova’s apartment. Police reports indicate that she admitted to defacing the signs and said she was ready to go to court on the matter.
“I did see some other signs down in other stores too,” said Novoselsky, who noted that he has had little to do with the matter. “The police have handwriting samples and everything…At one store on Beach Street, she allegedly wrote right on the store window. One store owner had to take down my sign because she was so embarrassed by what was written on it.”
In the end, it’s all a sign of the election season, and a particularly active season in a ward that has suffered from low turnout and low interest for years.
“I think for the first time in a long time in Ward 2, we’re going to have busy polling places on election day,” said Morabito.
Added Novoselsky, “I can’t begrudge my opponent. He’s out there doing what he has to do. He is working hard, but so am I.”
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