Wednesday, September 19

Strange Bedfellows

In the Coloradoan's "community room" this morning, area publishers met to discuss alternative options to the City of Fort Collins' proposed ordinance to regulate newsracks, which, as I've said, is riddled with First Amendment violations and just sucks from a business standpoint. From USA Today to Fort Collins NOW, from American Classifieds to Scene Magazine, sixteen usual competitors actually agreed on something: We don't like the city's ordinance and we would like to draft a voluntary agreement with the city that protects our First Amendment rights and ability to do business while addressing the issues the ordinance attempts to address.

Mini-muffins, coffee and Sam's Club water were served, and a slide show comprised of recent photos of our newsrack clusters in Old Town was shown. Maybe I was hallucinating, but I swear I heard ooo's and ahhh's whenever the Chronicle bin was shown with our gorgeous broccoli cover. It made me wonder: Could it be that the issue of newsrack aesthetics (the Downtown Business Association and the Downtown Development Authority think our newsracks are an eyesore) only bubbled to the top of the agenda when the Chronicle showed Old Town what a beautiful bin looks like? Did we, by comparison, make everyone else look bad?

We have until October 12 to present something to the city, but in the meantime we all agreed to clean up our bins in Old Town in a good faith effort. And the meeting was not a heavy-handed presentation of ideas from the Coloradoan, as I feared, but a true attempt to build consensus on a policy that addresses the unique concerns of all publications present. Strength in numbers. Lots of talk about free speech, non-exclusion, self-policing rather than city policing, etc.

I may be wrong, but I think this is the first time all area publishers met like this, and it was an eclectic group, a motley crew, if you will.

It also occurred to me during the meeting that the DBA and DDA's issues with proliferation in Old Town (they think there are too many bins) could also be directed towards sandwich shops. Don't get me wrong; I love sandwiches. But really? Do we need three per block? All that bread presents a public safety, health and welfare issue. I may file a complaint.

Stay tuned for more info in the ongoing battle to defend the rights of Fort Collins citizens to have access to publications, particularly ours.

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