City may prohibit ‘doorstep scattering’
By Cassie Lennox
The Stevens Point Public Protection Committee unanimously approved recommending a new ordinance be established to prohibit the scattering of “papers,” including newspapers, advertising items, political flyers and club/organization fundraising materials on residents’ doorsteps Monday, Oct. 9.
The proposed ordinance is expected to be before the Common Council Monday, Oct. 16, for a decision.
The newly-created ordinance states it would be unlawful to deliver any advertising matter or newspapers to the home of someone who has informed the distributor, publisher or delivery person that they do not wish to receive the materials, though it does not apply to materials delivered via the U.S. Postal Service.
It will be up to the publisher or distributor to take reasonable means to prevent the continued delivery of the unwanted materials, and if the unwanted materials continue to be delivered, the publisher or distributor will need to provide proof that they attempted to stop delivery.
The proposal comes from District 1 Alder Tori Jennings. Prior to Monday’s meeting, Jennings posted on her Facebook page a photo of bagged newspapers on a doorstep and said she would be proposing a new ordinance to reduce “unsightly piles of newspapers.” The papers included editions of the Buyer’s Guide/Stevens Point City Times – a publication that is delivered free to homes in Stevens Point – and what appears to be an envelope requesting a solicitation.
It was not Jennings who addressed the committee on Monday, however. She said she would defer to City Attorney Logan Beveridge to explain the proposed ordinance.
Beveridge explained the ordinance stemmed from problems in which the materials have ended up on the sidewalks or the street, or in some cases clog snow removal equipment after being buried in the snow.
In a memo written to the Common Council Oct. 4, 2017, Beveridge said “my office in the past has received complaints from residents about unwanted delivery of such papers despite repeated requests to the publishers to no longer receive them. This ordinance would allow for residents to inform publishers/distributors that they do not wish to receive such papers, and create a penalty if delivery continues to occur following such request.”
The Buyer’s Guide/City Times is owned by Multi Media Channels (MMC), whose parent company is Brown County Publishing. Nick Wood, one of the MMC owners, said in a separate interview that he believed that there is a lot of confusion about the issue. The issue referenced by the city attorney related to red-bagged newspapers which had been printed by a different publisher, although Jennings’ Facebook post implicated the City-Times/Buyers Guide.
“Most of the complaints we received in the past related to the red-bagged newspapers, which we do not publish,” he said. “For our part, we have time-tested systems in place to ensure accurate delivery, which we would be happy to discuss.”
MCC plans to contact the city prior to the Common Council meeting Monday to discuss the issue. MMC owns both the City Times/Buyers Guide and the Portage County Gazette.
Though the memo refers only to papers, the proposed ordinance will pertain to “advertising matter, handbills, newspapers, or similar material,” which will include political flyers, group and club fundraising forms and material, coupons and menus, event flyers and any other comparable material, along with newspapers and magazines.