WEST NEW YORK -- West New York Commissioner Dr. Count Wiley was expected to give a live interview on Fox 5 news Friday evening to discuss his objections to a newly introduced ordinance that would ban all signs, billboards and flags not awarded a town permit.
The ordinance was introduced by Mayor Felix Roque at a Commissioners Meeting Wednesday night and was supported by four of the town’s five commissioners, Wiley being the sole vote against. The ordinance will be discussed at a public hearing on Feb. 20, before a final vote takes place.
Wiley, a staunch opponent of Roque’s since the mayor’s arrest on hacking charges in May, said that the ordinance clearly calls into question a citizen’s right to free speech.
“What if there’s a soccer game and you want to attach your country’s flag to your car and drive down Bergenline Avenue in celebration?” Wiley said. “Now you’re going to get a fine for it.”
Wiley, who launched a campaign to recall the indicted mayor in December, said that the ordinance was politically motivated, aimed at himself and others in the community who have called for Roque’s resignation.
“It’s political tactic, and it’s insulting that he’d call our town the Wild West,” he said, referring to comments Roque made which were published in The Jersey Journal on Friday.
Frank Ferreiro, a local businessman and founder of Residents for a Better West New York, accused the mayor of issuing the ordinance to curb his ad campaign against him, which operates on a fleet of TV-laden trucks, called TV on Wheels.
“[The Board of Commissioners] have effectively violated the freedom of speech and expression that every single resident and business owner is granted and protected under the laws of the Constitution,” Ferreiro said a press release.
Both men also commented that the ordinance violates commercial freedom of expression as it would ban businesses from displaying signs in their windows that take up more than 15% of the glass.
“Under this ordinance, 95% of West New York’s business owners are in violation of the law, how can that be right?”
Mayor Roque responded to his critics on Thursday in a statement issued through his spokesman, Pablo Fonseca, claiming that the ordinance is aimed at cleaning up the city, and is not political.
“The intent and goal of this ordinance is to provide the residents of West New York with a good quality of life, and to prevent a nuisance or a danger to residents,” said Fonseca. “We can’t have the city surrounded by all these billboards.”
The ordinance has already made national news, appearing on news websites such as The Drudge Report and The Huffington Post. However, most of the national media’s attention is based on speculation that the ordinance would ban the American flag, a claim that Fonseca disputed.
“We’re certainly not trying to ban the American flag,” he said. – Dean DeChiaro