If you listen to the Community Alliance version of Stir it Up on KFCF 88.1 every month, you may have heard me talk a few weeks ago about the proposed newsstand ordinance for the city of Fresno. It would include new regulations and increased costs for all newsstands on city land.
We were notified about this plan not long before it was to be voted on by the Fresno City Council. Thank you to those free speech supporters who made calls and sent emails to the council successfully delaying the decision. The discussion about it will be taken up again in the new year, presumably not until February given the council’s work schedule. I want to make sure our readers understand the significance of the issue.
The people who put together this ordinance clearly want to make it harder for the free press, especially independent print outlets like ours, to exist. They are proposing a fee of $75 per news rack or box for the first year of the program and $35 per year, per rack for every subsequent year. When you are a free newspaper that has dozens of newsstands all over the city, that adds up. We have as many as we do to be available to as many people throughout town as we can. And since we do not charge for our newspaper, these new fees would cut into our big profit of nothing!
In addition to the fees the newspaper would be required to get a permit, an insurance policy just for newsstands, and (although we are a 501c-4 non-profit) a business license in order to keep our newsstands on city land. These costs could amount to thousands. Even though we have wonderfully dedicated donors and monthly subscribers, that would make it prohibitive for us to have news racks in the city. We do have some racks on private property with the permission of local businesses. There are also many restaurants, offices, and community organizations that allow us to put copies of the paper on their counters. We appreciate that very much!
We cannot rely only on those people who allow us to put our paper within the boundaries of their private property, however. In order to really reach the people, Community Alliance needs to have access to public property for newsstands. As ownership and management has fluctuated over the years, there have been cases of public libraries that have refused to continue to carry the paper or private businesses that change their policy about keeping Community Alliance inside their establishment. See the images of Fig Garden Public Library and Revue Café for details. More on each here: https://fresnoalliance.com/from-the-editor-19/ https://fresnoalliance.com/from-the-editor-oct-2012/
The ability for the public to get a hold of the newspaper should not change based on the whims of local businesses or the personal feelings of other individuals in Fresno. In fact, we would like to have more news racks in the city. We have had to discontinue some due to not having enough volunteers to deliver them to the various parts of town. If you would like to volunteer to deliver papers for us, please contact our distribution coordinator, Vic Bedoian. You may also call, text or leave a voicemail at the newspaper’s new phone number (559) 492-0253 or email firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
If you would like to see the full details of the proposed ordinance, contact one of the above email addresses for the PDF version of the documents. You may always read the full newspaper at fresnoalliance.com, as well. Allow a few days after printing for it to be posted online.
We will publish more details about the ordinance as we get them. Thank you so much for your support on this issue!
UPDATE on 1/10/17 The Fresno City Council will take up the issue again on Thurs, Jan 12, 2017. Please come to the council meeting at 9:00 a.m. to support us or call your representative to let them know what you think!
UPDATE on 1/11/17 From Mike Rhodes on Facebook: “[Editor] Hannah Brandt and [Community Alliance board members], Pam Whalen and Camille Russell met with Esmeralda Soria today to stop the city from implementing an ordinance that would impact the Community Alliance newspaper’s use of newsstands. The proposed ordinance would have forced the newspaper to pay a fee for each newsstand (in a public location), pay for insurance for the newsstands, to buy newsstands from a particular vendor (in Texas!) and had several other problems, as well. Soria helped stop the ordinance, that would have cost the newspaper thousands of dollars, from being considered at the City Council meeting on Thursday, Jan 12, 2017. City Council member Clint Olivier pulled the item from the agenda and says that it will not return.”