Litter vs. Speech Will Go to Court

It didn’t take long for the Courier-Journal to file suit against the city over the Metro Council’s new anti-littering ordinance.

The Council approved the ordinance this month, which doesn’t outlaw the distribution of C-J advertising supplements, but requires that they be delivered to porches instead of thrown on driveways and streets. A similar ordinance was proposed two years ago, but the C-J at that time convinced the Council that it would voluntarily change the way the supplements are distributed. That worked briefly, but Council members say it’s gotten out of hand again.

C-J publisher Arnold Garson says he can’t accept the restrictions in the ordinance, even though he claims the supplements aren’t thrown on driveways and sidewalks.

The Council gets lots of complaints about the little green bags. The problem is especially prevalent in the South End, places like Okolona, PRP and Valley Station, but also in sponsor Brent Ackerson’s district, around Taylorsville Road and Browns Lane.

Ackerson said he met with C-J representatives shortly before the ordinance was passed. He was confident, after talking with the county attorney’s office, that the ordinance was constitutional. He said the paper was unwilling to discuss a way to pass any type of ordinance, claiming that any type of  legal restriction would be unconstitutional. So the meeting was unproductive, and the Council moved ahead.

The newspaper claims it’s a First Amendment matter.  The Council says there’s a limit to how much you can litter on the streets of the city.

If the ordinance survives the C-J’s fight, its effects may be felt by politicians this fall, because it applies to political advertisements, or any printed material distributed without consent. Imagine the stakes as opponents in political races charge each other with violating the ordinance, and then lodge complaints with the city.

C-J attorney Jon Fleischaker, in a gross exaggeration, wrote in the paper’s suit that fines could equal $68 million a week. No, that won’t happen as long as the C-J instructs its carriers to deliver the supplements properly.

The county attorney’s office will defend the ordinance in court. The law was scheduled to go into effect Aug. 25.

10 thoughts on “Litter vs. Speech Will Go to Court

  1. Someone want to organize a protest where Louisville residents just dump their trash on the front steps of the Courier-Journal? It won’t be littering if we just call the trash “letters to the editor” though.

  2. I remember when i delivered papers it was required that i deliver that crap to all non subscribers. I hated it. On my route, the folks would just leave them on their doorstep until there was a pile of 5 to 10 of them. They’d usually get pushed out into the street and make a huge mess.
    It was the worst part of that job (other than never getting paid by those stupid bastards!)

  3. Why can’t the C-J get a bulk rate from the Post Office and mail them? I already get a similar advertisement supplement by mail. It’s still mostly junk, but at least the C-J would be following the law and getting their “free speech” satisfied.

    Besides, there’s a cost in hiring people to litter people’s lawns with the supplements… surely they won’t have to spend that much more money by taking bundles of the things to the post office to mail.

  4. I understand from a business standpoint why they are fighting it: The fines mean they will not be able to distribute the circulars at all. There is too much risk. A minimum-wage paperboy could put them in the poor house, intentionally or through ignorance of the procedures.

    Not that this means there should not be penalties for doing this stuff, but the penalty is definitely out of line when compared to other ordinances on the books.

  5. As someone who delivered newspapers for many years, I can safely say if this ordinance is upheld the circulars will go away (or at least be delivered via mail). In order to deliver to every porch, the carrier would have to do the route on foot. They simply don’t have the time, and many carriers (elderly or handicapped) don’t have the physical ability.

  6. So when the streets of Louisville are already full of crap and junk, they are going to single out the CJ people. I don’t like the so called Courier Journal because they have gotten away from real investigative reporting and have became part of the local administration. Its like reading Pravda back in the old days.

    When are they going to start doing a community wide junk cleanup. For example, why is the Outer Loop consistently trashy as well as other areas across the city. Didn’t they also pave the Outer Loop a few years ago and its falling apart most of the way in front of the mall to well over in the SW county. Where is Madonna Flood when you need her to start advocating for the South End. Oh thats right, she is out trying to keep her husband on the short leash.

    When are they going to start cleaning up the various streets around the South End especially when it comes to trash and basic order. Or even better go down to Councilwoman Bryant Hamiltons district and figure out why a lot of the streets down there look like a war zone with garbage and bottles, etc floating down the street when you drive through.

  7. The CJ is grasping at straws. Again, the ordinance does not prevent them from distributing the flyers, it simply sets limits on HOW they can distribute them. Expect them to lose this one.

  8. The sad thing though is that the CJ could have remained one of Americas great newspapers. But they chose to be a bastion of running things from the wire instead of doing real news and real intelligence gathering. Something that made the CJ a newspaper of record in times past. Its a shame the whole medium is going kaput but probable since its so easy to get info on the net and through other media. There is still something to be said about being able to pick up a paper and read it though that the internet cannot duplicate. Unless you have Kindle or something like that.

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