Wednesday, October 20, 2010

After 2009 Crackdown On Signs, Campaigns Pull Back From Posted Street Presence by Laura Nahmias - City Hall News

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The airwaves are flooded with advertisements, but there are not many signs of this year’s elections underway on the streets of New York City—literally.
In the scheme of things, stapling signs around lampposts or taping them to streetboxes may not seem like that big of a deal, but it is illegal, and just like parking violations, something the city government appears to be cracking down on harder in dealing with the recession.
In 2009, the Department of Sanitation issued 76,955 illegal posting violations—almost twice as high as in previous years, according to Sanitation spokesperson Kathy Dawkins. Dawkins acknowledged last year’s elections were responsible for the increase in citations. This year, the number of violations is on track to exceed those in years 2007 and 2008, but might not reach the number posted last year. Campaigns appear to stopping themselves short.
Adriano Espaillat, who won the primary for Eric Schneiderman’s Senate Seat in Manhattan and the Bronx, spent part of his primary night hurrying volunteers to collect signs off the street as he canvassed the last few corners.
He had noticed fewer signs this year than in the past, he said.
“This time around, there was less of that, no questions about it. I was specifically very cautious. I don’t know whether the city’s cracking down, but the actual posting was less than in previous years,” Espaillat said.
“Even on Primary day where people would usually risk it to put them up, people were more subdued,” he added.
Candidates reined in supporters who put up signs on city property, with the understanding the city was being unusually harsh.
“We had people, volunteers, who put signs up who stopped by the office, and we had to ask them to take them down,” said Christopher Malone, policy director for Gustavo Rivera, a Bronx State Senate candidate.
Democratic consultant Richie Fife, who managed Bill Perkins’ primary run for State Senate in Harlem, said the downturn in signs might not just be fear, but simple economics as well.
“I don’t think people have ever shown a great effectiveness of these kinds of street signs. People get angry when they see these signs, and think of it as clutter. So you spend money, break the law, and don’t get anything for it. It isn’t a great trifecta,” he said.
A spokesperson for the Environmental Control Board, responsible for collecting on fines, has said the city is making illegal sign postings a priority, but could not say whether it was a renewed focus. She also did not know how the city’s collection rate on fines in the previous year compared to rates in other years.
City Comptroller John Liu racked up $500,000 in fines from illegal postings in his campaign last year. Mayoral candidate Bill Thompson also racked up more than $500,000 in fines, with more than 7,093 citations. Each citation costs $75. The Comptroller’s office had no comment on whether the fines had been paid, but campaign finance records show no expenditure to the city for the payment of fines. Thompson’s campaign records do not show fine payments either.