Every afternoon after the workday has ended, like most parents, I dash to after-school care to pick up one child, as my husband is on his way to pick up the other one. More nights than not one of us goes by the grocery store to pick up milk or bread or cereal or whatever it is we are out of even though I just went on the “big grocery run” three days prior. Grrrr. How does that happen?

So usually the sun is getting pretty sleepy by the time my car finally turns into our driveway. We pull in. I get out and unbuckle the kid I have picked up — usually the eldest boy child — grab his backpack, his lunchbox, his snack bag, some times his nap mat, my purse, my lunch bag and/or travel coffee mug from the morning and two or three bags of groceries. I look like a bag lady by the time I get this stuff draped around me and start heading for the front door, key in hand, son in tow.

So as I am acting as my family’s Sherpa most evenings, nothing irritates me more than to turn around and see that bag at the end of my driveway. You know the one I am talking about. “Gulf Coast Life,” formerly known as the “Bargain Finder” and otherwise known as the bag of ads slung in your yard without your permission by the Press-Register or Alabama Media Group or al.com or whatever it is they call themselves these days.

So yes, after I put up all of my groceries, pull school folders out to review the day’s events/behavior and begin listening to kids yell they are starving or refereeing which cartoon will be watched, it is MY responsibility to remember I need to walk back down to the end of my driveway in the snow or rain or heat or gloom of night to pick that sack up to throw away. How often does that happen? Let’s just say the battle between “Barbie” and “Wild Kratts” usually takes precedence, then dinner and baths and bedtime and all the other things we have to cram into our very limited evening together.

The next morning it all starts over again. The backpacks, snack bags and lunch boxes are repacked and we load up again to start our expedition back out to the car and to work and school. As I roll back over the latest exciting issue of “Gulf Coast Life” at the end of my driveway, I sigh.

“Well shoot, I’m not getting back out now to grab that thing and throw it away, it’s just going to have to wait until tonight.”

And then the cycle starts all over again.

I can totally understand why you see these things dying slow deaths at the end of driveways all over town. And why the mayor and Mobile BayKeeper have declared them such a huge part of our litter problem.

Perhaps it wouldn’t be so irritating if their “opt out” program actually worked, but from the Trice family perspective it does not. I called the number listed on their “newspaper” over a month ago and waited on hold for 11 minutes and 1 second until I finally spoke to a real person who told me they would suspend delivery. And my husband also went to the website and entered our information there as well. We got an issue or two more, then it stopped for a couple of weeks. But then last week, we got it again.

The “content” of this “newspaper” was a travel article on bird watching and chicken recipes from the Chicago Tribune. Because nothing says “Gulf Coast living” like chicken recipes from Chi-town! But they have to put these “articles” in there because they want to be able to assert their “First Amendment right” to be able to distribute “news” in your yards. What an absolute crock!

The nauseating irony that Gulf Coast Life calls itself a “newspaper” is that al.com’s trade organization, the Alabama Press Association, is very actively working against this newspaper — which is full of actual news — and a bill before the state legislature that would allow free newspapers like Lagniappe to take legal advertising or public notices. Many local attorneys and governmental agencies have asked us to be able to do this because the limited amount of competition has led to high pricing and/ or the advertiser not being able to really reach the intended audience.

Free papers like ours are currently banned by an antiquated clause in the state code. And, the APA is against this really for no other reason than their members — including one of their biggest al.com — don’t want the competition — even though the Press-Register has been barred from taking certain types of these ads by the Mobile County Probate Court because of their gross negligence in handling them.

The APA has stated one of their concerns was if free papers like ours could take legals, what would stop the Thrifty Nickel (or other shoppers) from adding a couple of “articles” and calling itself a “newspaper?”

This is the point where you need to grab your nausea medication.

Yet, the Press-Register, (again, one of their biggest members) is adding a bird watching article and a Chicago chicken recipe to “Gulf Coast Life” so they can call it a “newspaper” and trash our yards, and in turn, our beautiful city and precious waterways.

It seems APA’s commitment to the integrity of a news product is only present when the money is flowing in their direction. And their commitment to our environment isn’t present at all.

It’s disgusting.

City and P-R attorneys sat down to see if they could reach some sort of compromise, but last week city attorney Jim Rossler said, “Let me sum it up. I don’t see any resolution between us.”

This is not a problem affecting only our community. These sad sacks of ads are big money across the country and many of the big newspaper chains have fought for their “right” to throw them. Some cities have won the battle and required the papers to run an “opt in” program, rather than an “opt out” one, which I think is a great option for the people who do want the coupons, like the ones Councilman Fred Richardson say live in his district. Win-win.

But of course, these big papers don’t want this because their numbers would plummet, and likewise the amount they can charge advertisers.

Other municipalities even had people place small signs in their yards indicating they didn’t want these products thrown in them. Though that option seems like a lot to ask of residents. Kind of like having to throw a bag of ads away every week.

I called for the third time this morning and asked for them to once again stop throwing their shoppers with an article and a recipe in my yard. At least I didn’t have to wait this time, as I was directed to leave a message. Maybe, just maybe, this time it will finally put finally put an end to it, though I doubt it.

I’m just hoping our mayor and City Council will find a way to once and for all help us end this public “news”-ance and help “Keep Mobile Beautiful.”
The council will discuss this issue again in a Public Service Committee meeting scheduled for Tuesday, March 31 at 1:30 p.m.