Saturday, June 02, 2007

News racks and free speech

Mayor Bill Purcell's veto of the news rack legislation makes me wonder if he's trying to ensure that his future ambitions aren't torpedoed by some of the newspapers that are trying the hardest to keep those messy and intruding boxes in the right of way.

This is not a free speech issue. It's a demand by publishers to get free sidewalk rent from the citizens of Nashville in order to advertise and peddle their wares. The least they can do is neaten up this mess and make sure that pedestrians aren't impeded in their use this important public space.

"I strongly disagree with the rationale, and no one can explain to me the suggestion that this in any way is unconstitutional," said [Councilman Mike] Jameson [East Nashville/downtown] , who, like Purcell, is an attorney. "But he did what he did, and as the leader of the city, he's entitled to some discretion." Tennessean
Strongly disagree?? If giving way to the Mayor despite the Council's vote and the opinion of citizens having to dodge these news racks is strong disagreement what exactly is Jameson's weak disagreement? Is the city, once again, expected to bow to the greater and more enlightened wisdom of East Nashville and it's liberal politicians? I hope not.

Now if the papers want to hire a person to stand on the street and hand out those all important apartment guides--that's another story. At least a person would give way when you're trying to navigate what is often a very crowded thoroughfare and might pick up the litter created. But a static box, providing 24/7 advertising of a product that doesn't pay the city for the use of the public space--that's not free speech. That's free advertising.

Let your Metro councilman know you want them to take back the sidewalks and override the veto.


Brittney said...

Great post, Kay, and I'm in full agreement.

Nashteach said...

I'm with you on the Apartment listing stuff, but unfortunately, it is partly a first amendment issue when politicians penalize the local media for unfavorable coverage. That's why we (try) to call it a free press- they should be free to cover and editorialize these politicians without fear of being punished by the government. This article reports on just that kind of behavior:

Dread expressed his anger over the piece at length in a series of e-mails to City Paper managers. In at least two exchanges over Monday and Tuesday of last week, Dread mentioned the anti-news rack ordinance the Council was set to vote on Tuesday night where Metro government would permit and tax all newspaper racks in the city.

“That being said, good luck on your news racks (expletive),” Dread wrote in one exchange with City Paper Executive Editor Clint Brewer over the column. “The last ones I saw were in complete disrepair. Just kidding. Sort of.”

The second comment on the news racks came when Dread was contacted via e-mail by City Paper Publisher Albie Del Favero on Tuesday as Del Favero was making a last minute effort to stem the tide of the Council vote against the city’s newspapers.

“Albie- If this didn’t run…I ain’t voting for it!,” Dread wrote at the head of an e-mail to Brewer he forwarded Del Favero demanding corrections in the original Dread/Spoon concert item.

We can't have the media fearing the politicians we want them to cover. They are too easy on them as it is.