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Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Elections this year, 2018

This year, we have Robert J. Berg running on his own, not part of the CNC slate.


Recently he argued in front of the Federal Court for Southern District of New York defending First and Fourteenth Amendment rights of Scarsdale residents.

I had heard that courts do not hear cases quickly. It takes years until a judge will decide to hear a case. So, I wanted to know how Robert had succeeded. He said he had filed under an emergency situation. Well, this just confirms that we need to have Robert as Trustee this year.

This year, you need to vote, because Robert is running.

Vote Tuesday, vote for Robert.

Our local political system is archaic, peculiar and more often than not self-destructive. It only serves those serving and that in a convoluted manner. It helps their careers but destroys their neighborhoods. 

They do not care, since after serving they move on to other lucrative pastures...

If you have been reading this website, you might begin to understand the intricacies involved. 

If not, please contact me. I will be happy to explain as much as I can. After 26 years here, still finding out...

Why should you vote for a slate, aren't you capable of choosing yourself ?

That is what happens in Scarsdale, you "vote" for a slate. Cronies choosing cronies. That is why just about nobody votes. Because voting here has no meaning. 

Vote only if you understand what is going on. Not because "they" keep urging you to...

Bob, Robert Berg is not part of the "cronies", sees the fault lines of the system and is already working hard to remedy this very undemocratic system. See below.


Here is Robert's press release on  Political Speech rights:


THIS MORNING, FEDERAL JUDGE NELSON S. ROMAN DETERMINED THAT SCARSDALE VILLAGE AND SCARSDALE VILLAGE POLICE DEPARTMENT HAVE VIOLATED RESIDENTS' FIRST AMENDMENT RIGHTS OF POLITICAL SPEECH

JUDGE ROMAN ISSUES INJUNCTION FORBIDDING SCARSDALE VILLAGE AND SCARSDALE VILLAGE DEPARTMENT OF POLICE FROM ENFORCING VILLAGE CODE WHICH PROHIBITS POLITICAL LAWN SIGNS ON RESIDENTS' FRONT LAWNS IN VILLAGE RIGHT OF WAY -- HIGHLY CONTESTED $65 MILLION SCHOOL BOND VOTE TOMORROW.

"VOTE YES" SIGNS CONFISCATED BY SCARSDALE POLICE DEPARTMENT CAN BE RETRIEVED AND RE-POSTED IN VILLAGE RIGHT OF WAY ON RESIDENTS' FRONT LAWNS.


This morning, U.S. District Judge Nelson S. Roman granted the emergency application of Scarsdale resident Robert J. Berg for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction against the Village of Scarsdale and the Village of Scarsdale Police Department.  The injunction prohibits the Defendant  Village of Scarsdale and Defendant Village of Scarsdale Police Department from removing political lawn signs posted in the Village of Scarsdale right of way in front of private homes or taking any actions against Plaintiff Robert J. Berg or any other persons with respect to posting such signs in the Village right of way so long as said political signs pose no safety or traffic hazards.

This case comes about amidst an historic $65 million school bond referendum that voters in the acclaimed Scarsdale Union Free School District will either approve or disapprove on February 8, 2018.  The proposed $65 million bond is largest bond resolution in Scarsdale's history.  The bond proposal has been developed after more than three years of intensive community, school administration and school board study, with the assistance of architects, engineers, environmental engineers, construction managers, bond financing experts, and attorneys.  And yet, the bond proposal has become a lightning rod for controversy within the community.  In a highly unusual move, the League of Women Voters has urged voters to vote against the proposal, while the PT Council and the PTA Executive Committees have recommended that their members and voters support the bond.  A substantial portion of the bond is slated for a massive renovation and expansion of the Greenacres elementary school.  Especially within the Greenacres neighborhood, the proposed school renovation has pitted neighbor against neighbor, with some wanting to preserve the beautiful and historic 100 year old structure and others seeking a new school. The debate over this bond within Scarsdale has become unusually heated and at times personally nasty.









Against this highly-charged political backdrop, certain residents decided to express their personal views about the proposed bond by posting small political lawn signs (18 inches by 12 inches) on the front lawns of their residences.  These signs simply state: "Vote Yes!  Scarsdale School Bond.  February 8, 2018.  Support ALL Scarsdale Kids & ALL District Schools."  Up to 500 of these Vote Yes lawn signs were placed on supporters' front lawns beginning towards the end of January 2018 and into early February 2018.

Most of the political Vote Yes signs were posted on the front lawns as close to the curb as possible (within one to three feet) without obstructing traffic or presenting a safety hazard in order to maximize the visibility of the signs to drivers and passersby.  Soon, a number of larger "Vote No" signs began to appear, generally posted on lawns but outside the Village right of way.  Starting around the beginning of February, 2018, the Vote Yes signs mysteriously began to disappear.  Concerned residents called the Police Department to report the signs as stolen.  These residents were advised by the police officers that the signs had actually been removed and confiscated by the police after the Police Department had received complaints from neighbors that the signs had been posted in the Village right of way.  The residents were informed that such placement violated the Village Code and that future placement would subject them to summonses.  One resident, who has lived in Scarsdale for 38 years, contacted police on Superbowl Sunday to inquire about a very large Vote No sign on a neighboring property.  Ten minutes later, there was a knock on his front door.  He answered the door, and a uniformed Scarsdale police officer told him that his Vote Yes sign, posted under a tree on his front lawn about four feet from the curb, was violating Village code and had to be immediately removed or the police officer would issue the resident a ticket.  The resident asked the officer whether he could wait ten minutes while the resident  finished another task.  The officer replied that the officer could either remove the sign himself immediately or the resident would be ticeketed.  The resident allowed the officer to remove the sign to avoid being ticketed.

When Mr. Berg, a strong supporter of the Scarsdale Schools and a strong supporter of the proposed bond, started to learn of these actions by the Village and the Police Department, he immediately contacted the Village attorney, Wayne Easanason.  Mr. Berg, a 16 year resident of Scarsdale, is a long-time community volunteer and activist.  He is also a practicing attorney who represents consumers and investors in class action lawsuits.  Recognizing that the Village and the Police Department were trampling, for absolutely no reason, on residents' cherished Constitutional rights of free political speech, protected by the First and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution, Mr. Berg explained to Mr. Esanason exactly why the Village's and the Police Department's actions were blatantly unconstitutional.  Mr. Berg pleaded with, begged, and cajoled Mr. Esanason to have the Village and the Police Department cease and desist from these Constitutional violations.  Mr. Esanason refused, and Mr. Berg advised Mr. Easanson that although he didn't want to file a federal lawsuit against the Village and the Police Department, Mr.Esanason's refusal left him with no other choice.

Remarkably, and abhorrently to Mr. Berg, the Village and the Police Department selectively enforced the Village Code only against residents who were displaying political signs in the Village right of way.  Anyone who drives the streets of the Village of Scarsdale will see the Village right of way littered with literally hundreds and hundreds, if not thousands of signs of a variety of types -- realtors' 'For Sale' and 'For Rent' signs, electricians' signs,  plumbers' signs, homebuilders' signs' general contractors' signs, architects' signs, landscapers' signs, masons' signs, driveway pavers' signs, "Hate Has No Home Here" signs, "Drive Like Your Kids Live Here" signs, "Scarsdale Raiders" boosters signs.  This visual blight, consisting mostly of commercial signs of realtors and contractors, is left largely intact and undisturbed by Scarsdale's Police Department and Scarsdale's Public Works Department, generally unless a resident complains about a specific sign which is then removed.  Given this consistent policy and practice of benign neglect by Scarsdale Village and its Police Department for many years, which Mr. Berg does not challenge and does not care about, Mr. Berg is appalled by the Village and the Police Department's policy, at the direction of the Village, of interfering with the only speech that really matters --- Constitutionally protected political speech which is afforded the greatest protection of any type of speech.

Thus, on Monday afternoon, February 5, 2018, Mr. Berg filed a lawsuit, captioned Robert J. Berg v. Village of Scarsdale and Village of Scarsdale Police Department, Civil Action No. 18-cv-1002 (NSR), in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York.  The lawsuit asserts claims under the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution and under 42 U.S.C. Section 1983 for the deprivation of Mr. Berg's and other residents' rights to exercise freedom of speech protected by the Constitution of the United States.  Mr. Berg's lawsuit seeks a temporary injunction, a preliminary injunction, a permanent injunction, and monetary damages in the amount of ONE DOLLAR.  

The case was assigned to the Honorable Nelson S. Roman, U.S.D.J.  Because the referendum on the school bond is being held on February 8, 2018, emergency relief was required in order for the relief to be effective.  Therefore, Mr. Berg sought an emergency hearing and applied for a temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction to prevent the Village and the Police Department from continuing to infringe on residents'  First Amendment rights to display political lawn signs on their front lawns within the Village right of way.

Despite Judge Roman being in the middle of a criminal trial, he scheduled an emergency hearing for 9:30 a.m. on February 6, 2018.  Mr. Berg represented himself and the Defendants were represented by Terry Rice, Esq. of the law firm of Rice & Amon,4 Executive Boulevard, #100, Suffern, New York  10901.  (845) 357-4000.  After a lengthy 40 minute hearing, the Judge took the matter under advisement.  Early this morning, the Court issued an Opinion and Order.

Judge Roman's 6 page Opinion and Order (attached) GRANTS Mr. Berg's application for a preliminary injunction and temporary restraining order.

The Court summarizes the Complaint as follows:

"In essence, Plaintiff, a resident of the Village of Scarsdale, brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C.§ 1983 challenging the constitutionality of Section 256.1 of the Scarsdale Village Code.  Section 256-1 provides, in relevant part, that residents may not "obstruct any street, public easement or other public place without first securing a written permit from the Village Engineer and complying with such regulations affecting obstructions as the Village Engineer may prescribe."  Because the Village of Scarsdale maintains 'ownership of [] paved roads [and] thirteen feet (13') on each side of [each] paved road,' the Village has interpreted Section 256-1 as allowing for the removal of unauthorized political signs from the front lawns of residents within the thirteen foot Village 'right-of-way.'  Plaintiff claims, and the Village apparently does not contest, that the Village Police Department has in fact removed such signs pursuant to Section 256-1.  Plaintiff contends that the provision, thus, unconstitutionally burdens, and has chilled the exercise of, his First and Fourteenth Amendment right to free speech."  (Citations omitted).  Opinion at 2.

The Court continued:

"Here, Plaintiff has established an actual and well-founded fear that Section 256-1 will be enforced against him if he exercises his First Amendment right to place political signs on his front lawn, which is almost entirely within the thirteen foot Village "'right-of-way.'  Plaintiff even received confirmation of the Village's position that it is entitled to remove such signs and even commence criminal proceedings against residents who post them pursuant to New York Penal Law § 145.30.  Plaintiff has, thus, shown a sufficiently credible threat of enforcement and prosecution to satisfy standing and ripeness considerations.  Plaintiff has also successfully satisfied the showing of irreparable harm absent injunctive relief.  As the Supreme Court has held, '[t]he loss of First Amendment freedoms, for even minimal periods of time, unquestionably constitutes irreparable injury.'  (Citation omitted).  Indeed, the Second Circuit has elaborated that '[t]he harm is particularly irreparable where, as here, a plaintiff seeks to engage in political speech, as timing is of the essence in politics and a delay of even a day or two may be intolerable.'  (Citation omitted).  Time is particularly of the essence in the present action, where the highly contested school bond referendum will take place in three days." (Emphasis added). Opinion at 3-4.

"With regard to the merits of Plaintiff's claims, both the Supreme Court and the Second Circuit have previously addressed decidedly similarly issues.  In City of Ladue v. Gilleo, 512 U.S.43 (1994), the Supreme Court struck down a city regulation that prohibited residential signs, much like the ones at issue in the present action, as violative of the First Amendment.  The Court reasoned that 'residential signs have long been an important and  distinct medium of expression" with no practical substitute.  Id. at 55.  Where a regulation forecloses an entire medium of expression, the Court elaborated, 'the danger [it] pose[s] to the freedom of speech is readily apparent -- by eliminating a common means of speaking, such measures can suppress too much speech.'  Id.  In Lusk v. Vill. of Cold Spring, 475 F.3d 480 (2d Cir. 2007), the Second Circuit took the Court's ruling one step further and invalidated an ordinance that required prior approval, which could take up to seventy days to procure, before residents could post signs in front of their homes.  Id.  Although the ordinance in Lusk  did not institute an outright prohibition on residential signs, the Second Circuit ruled it nevertheless constituted an 'impermissibly broad ban on such speech.'  Id. at 492.  Indeed, the Circuit Court found that requiring residents to obtain prior approval before erecting residential signs, 'no less than the [ordinance] at issue in City of Ladue, almost completely foreclose[s] a venerable means of communication that is both unique and important, at least pending .... approval [of the signs]..'  Id. at 491 (internal quotation marks and citations omitted)."  Opinion at 4-5.

"The regulatory scheme invalidated by the Second Circuit in Lusk is largely indistinguishable from the ordinance presently at issue.  For residents like Plaintiff, whose entire lawn space falls within the Village's 'right-of-way,' Section 256-1 constitutes a near complete foreclosure of an important means of communication.  Indeed, Section 256-1 does not place any time limitations on the approval process, allowing for an indefinite restriction on residents' political expression  -- which is undoubtedly even more troubling than the seventy-five day approval period invalidated by the Second Circuit in Lusk."  (Emphasis added).  Opinion at  5.

"The Court is mindful that both City of Ladue and Lusk involved residential signs on private property, whereas Section 256-1 regulates the placement of signs on what is ostensibly property owned by the Village of Scarsdale.  However, to the extent that Section 256-1 permits the Village to police the posting of lawn signs in front of private homes, the First Amendment concerns articulated in Lusk and City of Ladue remain all too relevant; the Village may not indefinitely foreclose a historically important means of expression for its residents.  See City of Ladue, 512 U.S. at 54 ("Signs that react to a local happening or express a view on a controversial issue both reflect and animate change in the life of a community.  Often placed on lawns or windows, residential signs play an important part in political campaigns...They may not afford the same opportunities for conveying complex ideas as do other media, but residential signs have long been an important and distinct medium of expression.")."  (Emphasis added).  Opinion at 5.

The Court then held:

"Accordingly, for the foregoing reasons, Plaintiff's application is GRANTED.  It is ORDERED that Defendants are enjoined from enforcing the provisions of Section 256-1 of the Scarsdale Village Code or taking any other actions against Plaintiff and other persons with respect to posting political lawn signs in the Village of Scarsdale right of way in front of private homes, so long as political lawn signs pose no safety or traffic hazards."  (Emphasis added).  Opinion at 5-6.

Mr. Berg is very grateful that the Court, despite its ongoing criminal trial, was able to hear this important case on an emergency basis, and to render its thoughtful decision so quickly so that residents who wish to display their political lawn signs regarding tomorrow's school bond referendum can once again do so without fear of illegal interference by the Village and the Police Department.  Scarsdale residents are once again able to freely  exercise their right of political speech on the front lawns of their homes in the Village right of way.  This is a time honored tradition in our Nation, and in these challenging times, it has never been more important to stand up for what is right and true to our Nation's highest ideals.

Mr. Berg has the greatest respect for the devoted and hard-working Police Officers of the Village of Scarsdale, led by our outstanding Police Chief Andrew Matturo.  Regrettably, the Police Department was placed in the uncomfortable and utterly unnecessary position of enforcing the illegal code provision at the insistence of the Village Attorney, who would not heed Mr. Berg's repeated entreaties to cease the effort when Mr. Berg explained in detail to the Village Attorney precisely why the Village's effort was unconstitutional.  Equally regrettable is the failure of the entire Village Board of Trustees and the Village Mayor to intercede and to direct the Village Attorney to stand down. The Village Board and the Mayor were copied on the email correspondence between Mr. Berg and the Village Attorney and thus were fully apprised of the situation but did not act to protect Scarsdale residents from having their First Amendment rights violated.

For media inquiries 
CONTACT:


Robert J. Berg,
32 Tisdale Road
Scarsdale, New York 10583
(914) 522-9455 (cell)



For those of you, Facebook fans, here is his Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/ScarsdaleVotersChoiceParty/


Last revised 6:45 a.m. EDT Thursday March 15th, 2018.

1 comment:

  1. Many thanks for supporting Robert Berg for trustee. Please Vote Row A today, March 20th for Scarsdale Tustee. 6-9am and 12-9pm at the Scarsdale Library.

    ReplyDelete