Late last month the city of Daphne officially became the latest municipality to try to legislate away the problems caused by free circulars thrown each week by the Press-Register.
The ordinance, aimed at reducing the number of Gulf Coast Life handbills that end up washing into local watersheds, narrowly passed July 25 with a 4-3 vote of the City Council.
The issue in Daphne is the same as it has been in Mobile and Fairhope, two other cities that have sought to reduce the number of bags of ads that wind up in vacant lots, empty driveways or at other places where no one asked for them, only to be washed into storm drains, streams and rivers. Mobile originally tried to enact a very tough measure but backed down after legal threats were issued by Newhouse publications, which owns the Press-Register.
In Daphne the ordinance would allow a municipal judge to levy a fine up to $500 for each handbill found in a city right of way or in storm drainage. The city would fine the person throwing the papers for not following the ordinance, which would essentially let the Press-Register off the hook.
While some members of the council worried an ordinance would limit freedom of speech or make it more difficult for a startup publication to compete in the area, others argued it would simply make the paper adhere to standards and not throw the circulars into empty lots and public rights of way. As of last year the P-R was throwing more than 200,000 Gulf Coast Lifes a week in Mobile and Baldwin counties.
Casi Callaway of Mobile Baykeeper, which has fought to see the P-R rein in its circular program, said the newspaper had tried to keep Daphne from voting on the ordinance, claiming they needed more time to make sure they weren’t distributing unwanted handbills.
“We disagreed, citing the length of time they have been distributing these ads,” she said.
In Mobile the issue has cropped back up again as citizens have complained they are starting to get the unsolicited handbills again. The city is supposed to pass along the names of those who complain and the P-R will then remove them from their delivery list, but some feel that process isn’t working very well lately.
“As far as the city of Mobile is concerned, we are currently collecting names of those individuals who have unsuccessfully tried to cancel, many multiple times. We will present this to the city to help them determine if the current ordinance is effective or needs amending,” Callaway said.
She also urged anyone who has tried without success to cancel their subscription to contact Mobile Baykeeper at 251-433-4BAY so they can continue to compile their database.
George Curry, writer and civil rights activist, dies
Tuscaloosa-born writer, publisher, syndicated columnist and civil rights leader George Curry passed away last weekend.
Curry, 69, wrote a column carried in more than 200 African-American-owned newspapers across the country. He was also a frequent guest on Black Entertainment Television. His career included stints with Sports Illustrated, the St. Louis Dispatch and the Chicago Tribune.
He also served as editor-in-chief of Emerge magazine in the ‘90s. He died of sudden heart failure, according to a report from National Public Radio.