According to Environmental Services Director Joseph Peluso, the posting of political signs is prohibited by city ordinance 1110-44, which states, "No person shall throw, cast or distribute ... any handbill, circular, card or other advertising matter whatsoever, in or upon any street or public place."
The ordinance specifically cites the posting of materials on "any pole or public sign."
Several of the candidates who have already had their signs removed by the city say they disagree with the ordinance.
They said they consider it a possible violation of their First Amendment right, and allege that the city has abused the policy by practicing selective enforcement.
Both Peluso and Mayor David Roberts vehemently denied such charges, with Peluso saying his employees are instructed to remove every illegal sign.
Allegations and official responses
One of the City Council candidates whose signs were taken down is Elizabeth Mason, who is running for the 2nd ward seat on an anti-administration platform.
"It's just another obstacle for me in an uphill campaign to gain name recognition with limited funds," said Mason, who claimed that while her posters were removed a day after they went up, a school board candidate's signs, who happens to be a police officer, remained posted for days without being removed.
She added, "I'm glad he's putting up the posters; it's a First Amendment issue, but I wonder why city employees are deciding which posters stay up and which come down."
Another person who complained is 4th Ward candidate Dawn Zimmer, who is also an anti-administration candidate.
"It seems some stay up and some are taken down," said Zimmer. "Posters and signs have always been up. It seems to me that this is an issue because entrenched politicians are possibly losing their seats."
Two employees hired to deal with it
In response to the allegations made by the candidates, Peluso said, "[Removing unauthorized signs] has always been a policy of the city, and I don't care whose sign it is or what it says, they'll all be taken down."
Peluso added that if there were any signs that had not yet been removed, it was only because they had not yet been noticed by his workers.
Environmental Services has hired two-part time employees just to travel around town and remove signs, according to the director.
He added that a letter will be mailed to all the candidates by Friday of last week informing them of the ordinance and warning them that they could face fines between $75 and $1,000 depending on the discretion of the judge.
In response to the candidates' complaints, Mayor David Roberts said that he would be meeting with his directors, the police chief, and the corporation counsel soon to discuss options for the candidates in light of the ordinance.
"I will make sure that there is a fair and unified policy being carried out across the board, and if necessary, create a policy that allows candidates freedom of expression," said Roberts.
He said he empathizes with the disgruntled candidates, having run in eight elections himself. He said he put up political signs on polls, only to have them torn down.
Other candidates glad
Not all candidates were as sympathetic as the mayor.
Second Ward candidate Richard Tremitiedi, who is running against Mason for the council seat, remarked, "There's plenty of ways to campaign without putting up signs. I obey the law when I campaign. Hoboken is a beautiful city, and we don't need sign pollution which will eventually lead to litter in the streets."
Fourth Ward Councilman Christopher Campos, who is opposing Zimmer in the race, objected to the placement of some signs that he claims were put on expensive light posts along Jackson Street.
One political hopeful who openly supported the use of signs was Board of Education candidate Nicholas Burke, a city police officer.
"It was an inexpensive way to get your name out," he said, "but nobody is above the law. And if the city decides to give a summons, I have no problem with paying it."
Burke said he was aware of the ordinance, but has a limited budget. He said he has been putting up political signs in Hoboken since he was 9 years old.
Burke joked, "I'm working on a $500 budget. It cost me $200 to make the signs and $200 to have business cards printed. I guess the $100 left over will be for the summons."
Burke's signs were removed by Friday morning.
Michael Mullins can be reached at email@example.com