Monday, October 15, 2007

The Tarnished Crown

My rants on what's wrong in the Queen City

Newspaper Boxes

Yes, it is a small issue but one that along with maybe panhandling just bug me. There are, of course, bigger issues out there like the lack of 'The Banks'. But doesn't that bother everyone? And I'm sure to talk more about that and other issues as this blog continues. So, that said -- Newspaper Boxes. In short I just thing they are an eyesore and clutter the streetscape. This includes boxes and racks distributing both free publications and those for purchase. They are on nearly every intersection, sometimes never have anything in them, and often the contents gets littered on the surrounding sidewalk. Chris Monzel doesn’t like them either (along with billboards and benches) and I generally do not have much in common with him.

Now I know there was a 1993 U.S. Supreme Court decision, City of Cincinnati vs. Discovery Network, Inc. that upheld lower court rulings that "a 1990 city ordinance prohibiting the distribution of ‘commercial handbills’ on public property violated the First Amendment." In losing, the city had to pay the nearly $200,000 of legal fees for the Discovery Network. So this may not be a fight the City is looking to have. However, Justice Stevens is quoted in a 2003 Cincinnati Post article regarding the Court’s narrow ruling:

"We do not reach the question whether -- a community might be able to justify
differential treatment of commercial and noncommercial news racks."
It is under this principal that I believe other cities can and are enacting regulating ordinances. Those that do not include the sweeping ban of all commercial racks like what Cincinnati attempted to do in 1990, but to regulate them and all newspaper boxes in an effort to beautiful their streets. Columbus, Ohio eliminated many freestanding racks and has contracted with City Solutions Outdoor to use a number of attractive, ganged boxes around downtown. City Solutions Outdoor in turn generates revenue from the sale of ad space on the back of each box. (This "billboard" solution is probably not agreeable to all, and offensive to some much like the boxes themselves. Chapel Hill, NC in 2001 wanted city-owned boxes so as not to have the added advertising that might have violated signage ordinances.)

Phjoto from City Solutions Outdoor website.

Cities like Dallas, TX are currently considering legislation to alleviate their "visual clutter" issue. Heck even Hamilton, Ohio has a few ganged dispensers around their central business district! Does this bother anyone else? I realize there is probably no money for this but should we get on this bandwagon? Is it time?

1 comment:

Kevin LeMaster said...

Oh, yeah...they are hideous and poorly maintained. I would totally be in favor of a more unified look.