Thursday, March 13

ACLU comes out against newsrack ordinance

From the horse's mouth:

Northern Colorado ACLU opposes Fort Collins newspaper regulation

FORT COLLINS, CO – Citing the proposal as an undue restriction of First Amendment rights, the Northern Colorado Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union declared their opposition to a plan by the City of Fort Collins to create a government-run monopoly over newspaper distribution in downtown Fort Collins.

The measure, which was approved 4-2 on its first reading, would ban privately-owned newspaper racks from public sidewalks and rights-of-way in Old Town and instead require that newspapers and periodicals be distributed only through a limited number of government-owned “condominums.”

“In addition to being unnecessary and expensive, this ordinance seems like an attempt to regulate newsracks because of their appearance,“ said Roy Bath, a member of the Northern Colorado ACLU’s Board of Directors. “That runs completely opposite to the spirit of the First Amendment.”

Local publishers have proposed an alternative ordinance that would allow private newsracks to remain, while addressing concerns about appearance, placement, maintenance, and safety. The city’s ordinance, however, could result in a period of time where newsracks are banned outright before newspaper “condominums” are installed, effectively halting newspaper distribution in Old Town.

“There are reasonable alternatives, including enforcing the existing laws,” said Bath. “City council should turn down this restrictive proposal and focus on approaches that don’t limit newspaper distribution.”

The ordinance will come before council again for its second and final reading in coming weeks.

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