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A LETTER FROM THIS WEEK'S GAZETTE
To the editor:
Catherine Borgia is my hero, and she should be a hero to everyone in Croton. In her civil disobedience of the village code, she leads by example.
For many months, she has had a sign in her residence window which is visible from the street. Under the US Constitution, this is not a problem. But Croton village code 230-44.P(1)(c) specifically prohibits this exercise of free speech.
She has now courageously added another lawn sign, raising the total to five. As everyone knows, Croton passed a law restricting speech to a maximum of three signs per residence [section 230-44.P(1)(f)].
Cynics might say that all of her positions are ones held by the Croton Board of Trustees, and that she sits on the Westchester County Board of Legislators. Under the circumstances, no Croton code enforcement officer who wants to keep their pension will issue a Notice of Violation against her property.
I prefer to take a less cynical view, and believe that Ms. Borgia has offered a path forward towards greater freedom in Croton. The Board of Trustees should amend village code section 230 to add: “Notwithstanding any provisions of this code to the contrary, every resident of Croton shall have the same rights to free speech as Catherine Borgia.”
It is true that Ms. Borgia is supporting the positions of a particular political party, including with her most recent lawn sign addition. Not everyone in Croton may be willing to put up a “Pugh Rosales Horowitz” sign on their lawn. As a reasonable compromise, my suggestion is that when a homeowner is approached by Croton Code Enforcement, they could utter the incantation “Pugh, Rosales, Horowitz” and this would be deemed sufficient to demonstrate their fealty and hence support a finding by Code Enforcement that the particular homeowner is permitted a modicum of Constitutional rights.
Croton resident Leonard Amicola chose to exercise his Constitutional right by flying a flag supporting Donald Trump, which caused the Board of Trustees to change the village code and issue a Notice of Violation against his property in the upper village. I understand that display of a MAGA or similar flag is so egregiously contrary to the standards of Croton conformity that it calls for punishment. Even in this instance, there is room for compromise.
My suggestion is that such a homeowner be required to utter “Pugh, Rosales, Horowitz” upon demand of any municipal or Democratic Party official, in a voice loud enough to be heard clearly at a socially-distant six feet.
In addition, the Board of Trustees could set a jizya to be paid alongside the homeowner’s property and school taxes. Inclusion on the jizya rolls would be based on failure to maintain the proper party registration on the enrolled voter list. Those registered as nonaligned would pay a lower rate than those registered as Republican. Persons registered as Green or Working Families would pay a variable rate, depending on whether their party had endorsed the Democrat in the most recent gubernatorial race.
The appearance of election signs has caused some people to complain that the signs are in violation because they are up for more than 45 days. The signs are lawful, because of the exemption provided in section 230-44.K (2)(c): Temporary signs pertaining to election campaigns. Such signs shall not be subject to the forty-five-day limitation… but shall be removed within 10 days after the election day.
This provision has become relevant this week, because Donald Trump is teasing a run for 2024. Based on the plain language of the village code, Croton residents can put up a “Trump 2024” sign and leave it up. Indeed it is permissible to put up a “Trump 2044” sign and you don’t have to take it down until November 18, 2044. That is the first election in which Barron Trump will be old enough to run for President.
I don’t support Mr. Trump, nor do I support Mr. Pugh. Both of them are intolerant and too autocratic for my taste. But those who support either of them are entitled to express that support under the US Constitution, and that is why I support both Mr. Amicola and Ms. Borgia. The freedom of speech visible on Ms. Borgia’s property is protected under the Constitution. That speech should also be protected under the Croton village code, and should be protected regardless of the viewpoint being expressed.
It is a sad testament to current political tides that we are surrendering our right to free speech in order to bolster our political favorites. Sad, and devastating. Thank you Paul for your insights.ReplyDelete
I have had to stare at at least seven political and virtue message crooked signs on my neighbor's yard for over a year. They're dirty, trite, rusting and sloppy looking., But their message is one that is acceptable so I am supposed to just look the other way. I don't, I've said something, and I am ignored. So be it. So I just ignore those rules I don't like right back. Thanks Paul for pointing out the phoniness here.ReplyDelete