May 1, 2008

Newspaper box regulation stalls

A wide-ranging proposal to regulate newspaper boxes has stalled as officials ponder the First Amendment implications of its provisions.
City attorney Dale Clift said that while it's legal to impose rules on the placement of the boxes, the city has to be able to show it has "a very compelling reason" for each of the rules it imposes.
What that means, officials said, is that they can set standards to make sure boxes don't block sidewalks, block the line of sight for drivers and other steps that clearly protect public safety.
But requiring newspaper box owners to carry high-value insurance, follow municipal dictates about the color or shape of boxes and the like are at the very least problematic, officials said.
City Councilor Craig Minor, who heads the Ordinance Committee, said the entire issue needs further review before his panel can move ahead with a new statute.
Ed Gunderson, the publisher of The Bristol Press, told the committee this week that he understands its concerns about the proliferating number of poorly maintained boxes for free publications that have been popping up in recent years.
But, he said, rules aimed at clamping down on shoddy box owners shouldn't hinder the operations of newspapers such as the Press or The Hartford Courant, which take care in making sure their boxes are in good shape.
"We're maintaining them daily," Gunderson said, because the paper has a direct interest in selling copies from every box.
Minor said that a voluntary system that Stamford has used for years with the agreement of newspapers circulating there might be worth exploring.
Officials initially thought of targeting only the many neglected free newspaper boxes, which typically distribute real estate and dating advertisements.
But in exploring the law, they found they could not comply with constitutional provisions protecting a free press unless any new local ordinance was "content neutral," essentially preventing the city from treating the boxes of a dating monthly any differently than it would those hawking The Wall Street Journal.
Clift said that some of the provisions in the initial draft legislation that governed insurance, "the look and feel" of boxes and other matters are "somewhat suspect" under the law and may well need to be overhauled.
Gunderson said he would work with the city to try to come up with a statute that protected both the public and the press.
Clift said that whenever a new draft ordinance is ready for review, there probably ought to be another public hearing to see what people have to say about its terms.
Minor said that holding another hearing would be "a good idea."
What that means is that it's unlikely a new law could be finished before mid-July and it may well take many more months.

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Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

18 comments:

Anonymous said...

Dog poop and newspaper boxes. Glad to see the leaders tackling the big issues that plague this city.

Anonymous said...

They could put the free newspaper boxes where the massage parlor is and include a pooper scooper vending machine there as well.

Anonymous said...

Little things add up, and if neglected erode our quality of life. You think West Hartford looks the way it does because of pixie dust? Yes, you should be glad there are people who care about this town enough to spend time working on the little things so you can spend time with your kids at Little League.

AnonymousWestconnStudent said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

You're absolutely right 9:30. The little things do add up and these small steps to clean up our city will hopefully add up too.

Anonymous said...

verrrrry interesting .......


The city attorney won't allow them to impose their superficial values on vending machines scattered around the city , BUT has no issue with the blight nazi's tearing down someones home without court approval or even public notice .

Am I the only one baffled by this ???

Anonymous said...

Yup 10:39, you're the only one.

Given the choice of living next door to a cockroach palace or a vending machine...most of us could put up with the vending machine. At least someone cares enough to maintain the newspaper boxes.

Odin said...

"The city attorney won't allow them to impose their superficial values on vending machines scattered around the city , BUT has no issue with the blight nazi's tearing down someones home without court approval or even public notice .

Am I the only one baffled by this???"

Yeah, cuz you're the only one so dumb that he can't see the difference between telling the Bristol Press what color their boxes can be and tearing down a slum deathtrap.

Anonymous said...

An historical landmark under restoration after being rescued from the wrecking ball and moved to provide for the expansion of the library getting leveled w/o court or public notice is considered a slum deathtrap ???


Such thinking brings to mind a quote from a 20th century notable ....


"The leader of genius must have the ability to make different opponents appear as if they belonged to one category."
.....Adolf Hitler

Anonymous said...

May 2, 2008 2:45 PM Poster

You are an idiot!

Historical Landmark? Get over yourself and stop with the Nazi references already.

Anonymous said...

Oh blight nazi guy, give it up already. That joke of an "historic landmark" (with all historic elements long gone) sat rotting long enough. Had some kid gotten into and broken his neck, the city would probably still be in litigation. Court orders and public notice would have been ignored by the owner, just like all the notification he had from the city.

Hello wrecking ball, goodbye slum death-trap!

Anonymous said...

Hysterical landmark is/was more like it.

Odin said...

Actually that building WAS a deathtrap, the way Ken Karl left it. The jury-rigged columns he had in the basement holding up the house were not to code, the open air basement in back of the house that Morin had to order him to put a fence around so some kid didn't break his neck... That absolutely was a deathtrap waiting to happen. Find a better example of bureaucratic excess, pal, cuz that ain't it.

Anonymous said...

geeee..... If memory serves me correctly , Adolf Hitler didn't wait for court approval or provide public notice either .

I guess the national socialist democrats learned from the clinton era when private militias came to the aid of Americans whenever advance notice was given concerning clintons' assault on American citizens .

Anonymous said...

gee 3:24....If memory serves me correctly, Adolph Hitler IS DEAD.

Public notice and court orders would have been redundant and ignored by the irresponsible owner who had failed to keep up his end of the bargain, and had already been given more than fair notice. There was no assault on ANYONE, just the demolition of an extremely dangerous eyesore.

Although people on this blog don't always see eye-to-eye, I think most of us would agree that your lunatic ravings about Hitler and nazis are insulting and demeaning to just about everyone. Comparing irresponsible landlords to those who suffered and died under Hitler's regime is twisted. Enough already!!!

Anonymous said...

If memory serves me correctly, Adolph Hitler IS DEAD.
May 3, 2008 4:58 PM

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Adolf Hitler might be dead , but , that hasn't stopped the blight nazi's from keeping his legacy alive in Bristol .

Anonymous said...

blight nazi guy, you really are one french fry short of a happy meal...I'm actually starting to feel a little sorry for Hitler.
ENOUGH ALREADY!

Anonymous said...

The blight Nazi's as you call them are only after you slumlords. go blight Nazi's don't let these pigs mess up our City !