The Mobile City Council unanimously approved an amended ordinance Tuesday, which would give the city more control over where commercial handbills, or advertising circulars can be placed on public and private properties.
The amendment further changes a version of the ordinance recommended for approval by the council’s public services committee last month. The new version would allow carriers to throw issues of the Press-Register’s advertising circular called Gulf Coast Life to private yards. The ordinance would prohibit the placing of the circulars on public rights-of-way, like sidewalks and driveway aprons. The amended ordinance will go into effect on Sept. 8.
The amended ordinance also requires the Press-Register to keep an up-to-date list of households that opt out of receiving the circular and distribute the list to the city, at least once a month, Councilman Joel Daves said. According to the ordinance, a distributor will have two weeks to honor any delivery refusal request.
The Press-Register has provided a phone number to call to cancel the publication. It is 251-219-5015. Daves said any resident who continues to receive the circular after the two-week grace period starting Sept. 8 can call the city’s 311 line.
Residents who do not wish to receive the circular can also place a sign to that effect in their yard and the same rules will apply. The ordinance also requires the circulars be placed in the yard in such a way to prevent them from being blown away into the stormwater system, Daves said.
The most recent amendment is a departure from ordinance discussed in the March 31 committee meeting. That version required circulars to be placed on the front porch, or on the doorknob of private residences. In an April 3 letter to Council Attorney Jim Rossler, Archie Reeves, an attorney for Alabama Media Group, called the version of the handbills ordinance discussed in the March 31 meeting “unconstitutional” because it works to ban “protected speech.” In the letter, Reeves threatened possible litigation.
Daves said the new version is a compromise that will give the city control over distribution, but wouldn’t result in a lawsuit.
“While we understand this ordinance doesn’t go as far as some would like, if this isn’t successful we can make changes down the road,” Daves said during the council meeting. “We feel we’re making significant progress.”
The latest version of the ordinance is still enforceable and the same fine amounts, ranging from $250 to $500, still apply.
Councilman John Williams asked if the amended ordinance would prevent the distribution of the circulars in question to homes where the previous week’s circular is still in the yard. Rossler said “no.” The ordinance makes no mention of multiple circulars in an inhabited house and only prevents circulars from stacking up at vacant homes.
Regina Edwards, of 1200 Bordeaux Street in District 3, complained to councilors Tuesday about a drainage issue in her front yard, which results in standing water.
Edwards said she acquired the home from her aunt and moved to Mobile seven years ago. She said her aunt had the same problem since 1983, but that the problem has now gotten worse.
“After they resurfaced the street it made the standing water worse,” Edwards told councilors at the meeting. “There’s an infestation of frogs now.”
She said the water stands for weeks and is there long enough for the frogs “to do what they are going to do,” which is causing the problem.
“There are billions and billions of tadpoles in the water,” Edwards said.
She also told councilors that while she loves a “well-maintained yard” it’s hard to maintain a portion of her front yard because it’s covered by standing water.
“I don’t want to have to live like this,” she said.
Edwards said she has, in the past, called 311 to have city public works crews come out to vacuum up the water. She said she’s been calling since late January and no one has come to help her.
Councilman C.J. Small, who represents Edwards’ district, said he’d been out to her house. He told councilors she’s frustrated because the city promised her a temporary solution and no one has come out to help her.
Artist Deborah Lisa Ingram asked councilors and the city for more information regarding peddlers’ licenses for LoDa Artwalk.
Ingram said she and other street artists, who come to the monthly event are confused about what to do to legally sell art in the city.
“Artwalk is dying because of this confusion,” she said. “We have no information and it’s just getting worse and worse. We don’t want to battle with the city. We’re just trying to find out what’s legal.”
City Attorney Ricardo Woods suggested Ingram set up a meeting with Ann Rambeau, special event coordinator.
In other business
The council approved rezoning of Old Shell Road School from R-1 to R-3 to allow for an apartment complex. There was a public hearing scheduled on the issue and no one spoke for or against it.
The council approved an additional full-time municipal judge position, through an amendment to a previous ordinance. The number of full-time municipal judges increases to three, with two part-time judges.
The council approved a contract for up to $300,000 with Atlantic Video Corporation, which would allow the Mobile Police Department to have a quick link to a variety of camera systems, Chief James Barber said. In addition, the council approved a $58,031 contract with Modern Communications Group for ongoing development and production of the “You Have a Choice” program through the MPD.
The council also approved an agreement for up to $60,000 with IDEA, Inc. to perform a review of downtown projects and concepts. In addition to helping the city reach branding objectives, Hugh Darling will help with an analysis of the cruise industry “to see where’s it’s going and if Mobile can move in that direction,” Mayor Sandy Stimpson’s Chief of Staff Colby Cooper told councilors, during a pre-conference meeting.
The council also re-appointed Sandra Blankenship to the Keep Mobile Beautiful Board and Phillip Davenporte to the Mobile Tennis Center Advisory Board.