Tonight at 6 p.m. a coalition of Northern Colorado publishers and periodical distributors will address the Fort Collins City Council during public comment to express concerns over a proposed ordinance that would seriously restrict our downtown distribution and trample all over the First Amendment. The number of spots in Old Town where readers get their newspapers and other publications would nearly be cut in half, and the city and Downtown Business Association will spend at least $115,000 to install "condos" or "modulars," those hideous boxy units found in more urban areas, to distribute publications.
The ordinance is meant to address concerns over unkempt bins in Old Town. These are concerns the publishers and distributors share as well. So, we've been meeting as a group for months now and have drafted a voluntary agreement amongst publishers that will address these concerns while protecting our First Amendment rights and access to publications for citizens.
Our proposal uses corrals, three-sided, ornate fencing, to organize bins at a cost of about 75 percent less than the city's proposed condos, while also offering design options more unique to Old Town that are constructed locally. The publishers' proposal also includes a Rapid Response Team organized by publishers to address tidiness issues with newsracks, while the city's proposal gives that job to the taxpayer-funded Parks & Rec department.
The alternative to the newsrack ordinance offered by the city is the result of a unique cooperation between competitors. But the response from the powers that be to our alternative has been lukewarm, and we need citizens' help telling council that limiting and regulating media in Old Town is not good city policy. Please come down to council chambers at 300 LaPorte Ave. or watch the meting on Channel 14 to get up to speed. The newsrack ordinance will be on council's agenda January 8.
Contact your council representative and the mayor to express your support for the First Amendment and your only local independent newsweekly.