The Election Department has officially received a complaint from an unnamed person concerning a political sign on the front lawn of Councillor George Rotondo.
Election Commissioner Diane Colella confirmed that there has been a complaint and that there have been no other complaints yet about signs.
Rotondo was asked to take his sign down – which indicates his run for mayor – but he said that he will not do so. He has filed a motion claiming that the ordinance is unconstitutional and needs to be rewritten.
According to the ordinance, signs are not allowed in a residential area until 30 days before the election.
He said that the City’s sign ordinance is being enforced unfairly because his opponent, Councillor Dan Rizzo, has a headquarters on Broadway that is plastered with campaign signs in its windows.
“I filed my motion last week before the complaint because I knew somewhere down the line this would be used against me,” said Rotondo. “My sign is out on my lawn. That’s my Ward 4 headquarters…No one complained about my sign on the lawn in 2009 and no one complained about the sign I had on my lawn last year. Now that I’m running for mayor, it’s a big deal and people have made complaints. This is typical. That’s been my headquarters since I first ran for Ward 4.”
He said he is not totally against the sign ordinance if it’s enforced uniformly.
“I do not disagree with the Constitutionality of it in the sense that it is fair when applied equally,” he said. “When it is not applied equally, it is then used selectively and unconstitutional. That’s why I feel the ordinance should be removed.”
Colella said that they do not go out and enforce the ordinance without a complaint. Their office is charged with dealing with complaints that are filed by residents, rather than going out and generating complaints.
She said that, in general, if there is a complaint, she calls the candidate and asks them to take it down.
If they don’t take it down, then the department doesn’t pursue it any further.
The only exception was a sign put up by Councillor Richard Penta in the 2009 City Election that was very large and on the Esquire Club.
Penta spoke about his experiences with the sign ordinance at Monday’s meeting.
He said that he believes the ordinance is unconstitutional, and that it did not hold up in court when his sign was discussed.
“It was only principal – only on principal that I did that,” he said. “Did it cost me votes? Maybe it well did…Should I have taken it down? Maybe I should have. But I believe the ordinance is written from a pro-incumbent standpoint. If you’re not well known, how are you going to get well known? It’s part of the electoral process; that’s what the judge said.”