A liter ordinance proposed by the Mobile City Council could bring the city and the Press-Register into conflict over the free advertising circulars being thrown in citizens’ yards that have drawn criticism from both residents and city officials.
The ordinance was drawn up in an effort to affect both the city’s stormwater management issues and its litter problem. The proposal surfaced at last week’s council meeting and was held over for two weeks pending the public service committee’s recommendations and further review. It was sponsored by Councilmembers Joel Daves, Bess Rich, Gina Gregory, Levon Manzie and John Williams.
And while the ordinance does give the Press-Register some wiggle room as far as throwing unsolicited newspapers into people’s yards, it appears to clamp down on the company’s distribution of advertising circulars throughout the city. Mayor Stimpson’s administration has pointed to the circulars in particular as a major source of litter throughout the city and a cause of pollution in local waterways.
The Press-Register renamed one of its circulars — Bargain Finder — to Gulf Coast Life a few weeks ago and city officials have said behind the scenes they think it was done to help the company argue throwing unsolicited newspapers and circulars is a First Amendment right, as has been successful in other cities where it has been challenged.
The ordinance states: “No person shall throw or deposit any commercial or noncommercial handbill in or upon any sidewalk, street, or other public place within the city; provided, however, that it shall not be unlawful on any sidewalk, street, or other public place within the City for any person to hand out or distribute, without charge to the receiver thereof, any commercial or noncommercial handbill or sample to any person willing to accept it.”
Daves and City Council Attorney Jim Rossler have worked to craft the ordinance and Daves cited complaints about constituents receiving unsolicited products from the Press-Register and others.
The ordinance offers several descriptions of a handbill and a number of restrictions. Still, it does offer newspapers the opportunity to continue being distributed even if they aren’t solicited — provided they are “placed on private property in such a manner as to prevent their being carried or deposited by the elements upon any street, sidewalk or other public place.”
How things will go down as far as the ordinance’s passage or enforcement is anyone’s guess, but if it is passed each violation of the ordinance is a separate offense and carries a $250 – $500 fine, possible jail time or community service.
Legal ads problems
And in more Press-Register-related news, it seems one of the causes of Mobile County Probate Court Judge Don Davis barring the P-R from taking legal advertising associated with his court was it was causing holdups in the adjudication of estates.
Probate Court sources say there were many instances in which attorneys were ready to complete a case, but it was delayed because the Press-Register had not run the ads and therefore no certificate of notice could be produced. At that point the ads, by law, would have to be run again for three consecutive weeks, delaying the action by nearly a month.
Susko to LA
Keeping track of one of Mobile’s former TV stars. Former Local15 reporter Jenna Susko is apparently moving south to LA, but not Lower Alabama.
She’s currently with KNTV, an NBC-owned station in San Francisco, but is headed to another Peacock Network-owned station in Los Angeles. KNBC has confirmed Susko is headed there to help their investigative reporting. She’s currently working in San Francisco as an investigative reporter as well.
Susko left Mobile in 2011 to head to California.
AMG getting new presiden
After less than two years at the helm of the Alabama Media Group, the company that oversees al.com, the Press-Register, Huntsville Times and Birmingham News, Matt Sharp is leaving to go back to Michigan.
Sharp joined AMG as its president in July 2013, but announced last week he would be returning to Michigan to become chief digital officer of MILive Media Group. Both MILive and AMG are owned by Advance Publications, which, in turn, is owned by Newhouse publishing.
According to al.com, Advance Local Senior Vice President Tom Bates, who is based in Atlanta will take Sharp’s place in an interim capacity. A national search is being conducted to find his replacement. He is scheduled to leave AMG April 6.