Though they tabled the issue Monday night in order to do more research, Daphne’s City Council is the latest looking at an ordinance to curb the litter created in large part by the Press-Register’s tossing unrequested advertising circulars into yards.
Should an ordinance pass, Daphne would join Mobile and Fairhope in determining Press-Register products such as Yes! and Gulf Coast Life to be a nuisance and source of litter.
And even though Mobile passed measures last April that were supposed to drastically reduce the number of these unwanted circulars being thrown across the city, environmental group Mobile BayKeeper says the list of citizens complaining they can’t get the Press-Register to stop is growing again.
The Press-Register agreed to make it easier to “opt-out” of having these products — more than 200,000 of which are thrown across the Mobile-Baldwin area each week — delivered to one’s home, many still say the free papers and advertising circulars keep coming even after the prescribed calls are made.
“In my experience opting out is futile, I have tried four times this year,” Jason Kudulis of Mobile Baykeeper said. “Also, the issue extends outside of the city limits of Mobile and is both a Baldwin and Mobile county litter problem. Drive down any county road and you will notice all the turquoise bags sitting in driveways, along roads and in ditches. Continuing to raise awareness about the impacts to water quality and how citizens can and should opt out if they choose is vital.”
Baykeeper is currently collecting names of people who have been frustrated in their attempts to stop delivery of these products.
“Per the ordinance the city can request a list of names [of parties] who have opted out of Gulf Coast Life. We are working to collect names of people unable to stop delivery to cross reference the city list. I can’t speak for the city on how they would handle violations but each instance is subject to fines,” Kudulis said.
Mobile had discussed a much harsher ordinance to stop the litter but backed down under threats of lawsuits made by company lawyers. Newhouse, as well as other newspaper chains across the country, have successfully argued it is their First Amendment right to throw advertising circulars, even if they have essentially no news value.
Daphne is likely to face the same intimidation issues if it pushes too far. Right now councilors say they are trying to determine who should be fined if a ticket needs to be written.
Baykeeper Executive Director Casi Callaway says she’d like to see Mobile get tough on enforcing the ordinance.
“The city has to be thorough in enforcing the handbill ordinance or it isn’t going to work. We keep finding them in the lake at Langan Park, Dog River and Three Mile Creek, not to mention any given street on their way to a nearby river,” she said. “We’re also excited to see more cities coming on line with new ordinances. If every city and county in Coastal Alabama passes this ordinance, we may be able to move to you have to request the bag of ads rather than reject it.”
Callaway asks anyone who has tried to have the circulars stopped but can’t to contact Baykeeper at 251-433-4229 or the city’s 311 service so their names will be included on the list.