Tuesday, September 11

Don't blame us...

...we play by the rules.

What is strange about the picture below?

Did you guess the old Fort Collins Weekly bin, with a Fort Collins NOW sticker transforming it, is taking the white Chronicle--err, new NOW bin from behind? You guessed correctly!

In Old Town the old red bins are piggybacking the new ones, with Spanish-language La Tribuna, washed up NextNC, and brandy new daily The Tribune watching on. This quad forms an unsightly cluster bomb of all Swift Communications Inc.-held papers, and the City of Fort Collins has had quite enough!

Sort of.

The news bin "problem" illustrated above is at the heart of a proposed ordinance soon to be considered by Fort Collins City Council. See, the corners of Old Town are cluttered with free speech, so the city has been considering installing newspaper "condos" in Old Town that create the uniformity most communist countries, like Boulder, enjoy. You know, these:

The eleven-page ordinance draft details how an individual bin "detracts from the appearance of right-of-way and surrounding areas and can be hazardous to the safety and welfare of persons using such right-of-way." Please, somebody who's been injured by a news bin step forward and claim your beer. I need to know who's been harmed by attacking bins, and I will personally put down the bin myself.

Those not in the newspaper distribution biz likely do not know that to have a bin in a location on city property requires that the newspaper request an encroachment permit that can be revoked at any time. The Chronicle has more permits than bins, just to cover our bases, while most of the other papers have more bins than permits, because they feel entitled. Perhaps the lack of permits for encroachment is what the city is describing when it says "the uncontrolled placement or poor maintenance of newsracks" is an issue "the current permit system for encroachment does not adequately address."

But the current system does address it! What's wrong with the system is lack of consequences for offenders and lack of enforcement from the city.

Now, they are proposing a way-too-detailed ordinance that favors big companies by requiring a $10 annual fee for each bin, a $1 million insurance policy on each bin and guaranteed, premium placement for coin-op papers (Coloradoan, The Tribune, etc.) in the condos. All us free papers have to enter into a lottery to even get placement in the condos, meaning there's a possibility the Chronicle will lose its spot to publications that are essentially classifieds, calendars -- not "news."

Lots of colorful things can be found in the ordinance -- like handicap accessibility of news bins, prohibition of advertising anything on the bin but the newspaper, and, my favorite, two permits will be granted to one publication only after all other pubs who've applied get placement (Next/NOW/Tribune/Tribuna, Coloradoan/Ticket?) -- but the most important, most egregious thing about this is how the ordinance's preference towards certain papers (paid, wealthy) at the expense of others is a clear violation of our First Amendment rights.

Council will discuss this ordinance at its regular meeting on Tuesday, September 18 and vote on it on October 2. We urge all readers to please, please email, call or visit council members and tell them to enforce the encroachment policies that exist rather than pass this heavy-handed, biased violation of the First Amendment.

If you would like a copy of the ordinance, email josh@rmchronicle.com.

Oh, this photo shows why the NOW bins were lined up. It's garbage day!


D$ said...

Funny the city has a problem with newspaper bins but there is not a patio they do not love. Patios are the biggest threat to my "right-of-way." On a busy night in Old Town it can be interesting navigating the narrow sidewalks left by patio town. I too would like to know who has been harmed by a newspaper bin.

jt said...

It's kinda disappointing to see that you guys "play by the rules"... And, 5 Alive, I've never heard of an injury by a bin, but there have been rumored cases of people inflicting pain and suffering on the bins by arm wrestling on top of them and knocking them over.