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Archive for July, 2009|Monthly archive page

Baltimore County Fiasco…

In Do-Not-Deliver, Uncategorized on July 24, 2009 at 6:13 pm

…avoided! The good intention of putting reigns on Handbill Banditos and one-off Decorators of Windshields and Doorways, squeezed through the local legislative sausage factory, became a Litter Bill that would restrict delivery of Free Community Papers. It passed. We got it vetoed. Favorable language in the works, with our input.

 

We got wind of the proposed new law in the 11th hour, scrambling immediately into action. Here’s a blow by blow case study based from relevant correspondence:

July 6, 2009

Hi All,

This would be a terrible precedent — it takes key provisions from the voluntary, self-regulating Carroll County Compact and makes them mandatory. Last I spoke with that Rep, Tanya Shewell, that approach was working fine. Seems to exempt free newspapers, like George’s, but invites a nightmare of he-said-she-said nuisance complaints for shoppers that would be a headache for all parties on enforcement end. Have a call in to Jack at MD DE DC Press….

Best,

Jim

No – I’ve never seen “predominate purpose” anywhere before. The Carroll County language applied to all unsolicited home delivery, chief offender being the then-publishing Examiner. I’d think a newspaper could make the case that they’re trying to inform the community, but bottom line of any commercial enterprise is the bottom line, purpose is make money.

 

Just got off with Jack, says he shared the voluntary compromise language with the sponsor & council, believes they’re most concerned with pizza flyers on cars, realtors sticking solicitations on doors, that it’s not about pubs, and issues remain on how to enforce.

Jim

On Jul 7, 2009

Hi to both of you.

In our Baltimore County the County Council has a bill to not deliver circulars. I have no more infor that the attachment but will get more. I was notified by the MDDC Press Association today. As I get more I will notify you both.

God bless…

George Wilbanks

Publisher

East County Times

410-780-3303

Hi George,

Thanks for the update, was between office & Harrisburg yesterday & today, but was in contact with Cynthia, Jack at MDDC, and staffer to prime sponsor, Olszewski, yesterday throughout day & eve…positively not the outcome anticipated by anyone.

Look forward to updates, as I get will share, too. We’ll make things right for next meeting. Think the investors behind MD Pennysaver just closed on Baltimore Guide — so they & Mr Baez can hopefully see their vested interest in this one.

Best Regards Always,

Jim

 

July 8, 2009

Hi Jack,

Good talking with you the other day. Looks like the law of unintended consequences bit all of us in Baltimore County. Attempts to carve a narrow loophole for newspapers now created a net that captures free newspapers and shoppers along with the real culprits — the one-off handbill banditos that terrorize windshields and front doors.

We’re in the same boat monitoring multiple state legislatures, and municipal-level threats lurk beneath the radar. As you shared, you stumbled onto this one late in the game, for my part it was the 11th hour. Please, please in the spirit of cooperation and on behalf of our dual members, let’s give each other heads up and work to get on same page in these pesky situations.

Going forward, to correct the situation at hand, I’m hoping a unified message and front will work: Professional publishers v. ad hoc litterbugs; 1st Amendment Speech, including commercial v. just ran this off the copiers at Kinkos, and I’m here to decorate the neighborhood.

Do you have time to talk about this later today or tomorrow?

Best Regards,

Jim

 

Hi George and Alyse,

Sent you a reply on this last night, here’s a polite followup to the gentleman who dug the hole deeper for all of us, his members included.

This has always been a pet peeve of mine, those who see a fork in the road, directions being cooperation and self-interest they choose the latter. Lessons from working together on the Carroll County Compact to the wind, Jack learned of this first and seized the opportunity to sell shoppers down the river. The ploy backfired on all publications delivered free of charge to their communities.

But today’s a new day. Headed back to Harrisburg in a few, but will keep in contact.

Best always,

Jim

“On Jul 8, 2009, at 12:55 PM, Sanders, Cynthia Blake wrote:

So here is the bill as approved and sent to the county executive. The question becomes what does “newspaper in general circulation” means in Maryland. In other states it requires a list of regular paid subs. Does the Baltimore Sun’s free junk that it drops on my sidewalk? The BCC bill added an exemption for newspapers as defined in Art. 1 of the Maryland Code, which states…”

 

Hi Cynthia,

Just paddled back through the 90 mile river of tractor trailers…got your prior email, didn’t have the goods on my googlephone.

Problem is provision #5: 2nd Class, now Periodicals = Paid; the general classification boils down to 50% copies paid for at 1/2 price or more & 1/2 the editions published throughout year having minimum 25% editorial content. There are some other technical provisions that evolved when the name changed, but this is now intended to trash everything but pay-to-read newspapers.

What irks me is the lack of professional courtesy from MDDC’s ED, who was ready to concede Carroll County when talks got heated. He wrote back that he’ll call this pm or Thurs….

Cheers,

Jim

 

Hi everyone,

I talked to one of Councilman Olsewski aids and he assured me the circular law was passed, goes into force in 45 days and most important it does not in any way impact any newspaper. It was designed to curb restaurants and small shops to curtail their distribution system. You can find the bill on the county’s website at http://www.baltimorecounty

George Wilbanks, Publisher

East County Times

410-780-3303

Hi George,

That’s the same line I got from his staffer yesterday afternoon. Unfortunately, their intent was hijacked by their device. Instead of distinguishing between published products and random flyers and handbills, they set a “know it if you see it” standard for “predominantly” commercial in nature — with specific exemptions for pay-to-read newspapers via 2nd class mails reference (now periodicals) and another for themselves, under “campaign material.”

I think the “eye of the beholder” standard, which this language sets for enforcement, is dangerous and unnecessary. It would be much better with the distinctions made in my top of the morn rant. Jack got back to me by email, we’ll be talking later today or tomorrow to see if we can agree on a joint call for amendment.

Best,

Jim

 

The bill is in the hands of the County Executive, Jim Smith, who has 10 days from Monday to veto or sign, if he simply does nothing, it passes. I’ll send a letter to Smith today. But being July it’s unlikely we can prevent passage. We will need to make a large noise with Jack of MD DC DE helping. Maybe if he realizes that the adopted definition of newspapers kills what little paper the Sun distributes, he would be willing to get a better definition.

 

On Jul 9, 2009

Jim do we have a preferred definiton of “newspaper” that includes free comunity papers that I should recommend?

Cynthia

 

Jack knows the language is bad, that it could be interpreted to restrict free newspapers depending on the whim of the interpreter, and that his association has significantly more free circulation than paid, even if the bulk is owned by 2 cos., Tribune & WaPo/Newsweek (not qualified for MACPA membership and ownership being why they fought us on Legals).

He’s concerned and committed to discuss a joint approach, we weren’t able to connect yesterday so that should happen sometime today. I want to forge a descriptive distinction between the act and business of publishing — periodical as Websters, not USPS v. ad hoc litterbugs & single interest neighborhood decorators. In our first conversation earlier in the day that this passed, we also agreed there’d be added benefit of strictly targeting the pamphleteers: Forcing them back into advertising in our papers.

Soon as we get on same page, will share….

Best,

Jim

 

Jack,

What’s the shot clock on a veto request & can we set a time to talk tomorrow am?

Best,

Jim

 

We are in good shape on the veto. The sponsor requested it yesterday, and the executive agreed. The sponsor will redraft the bill and resubmit it in August. I’ll try to call you at 11 today.

 

 

Excellent, thanks & very much look forward.

 

What do you think of this amendment to your amendment? It does 2 things: Separates Publishers from Handbill Banditos & Reinforces that Newspaper definition not meant to be taken in context of Legals Law, i.e. paid. — Jim

“Amendment to Bill 49-09

Page 2 line 21, after “SERVICE” strike the period and insert “, OR DELIVERY BY OR ON BEHALF OF A PUBLISHER of NEWSPAPERS or similar Community Interest Publications.”

To now read as follows:

21-19-101. Definitions.

(C) DELIVER. “DELIVER” MEANS TO THROW, PLACE, OR DEPOSIT. THE TERM DOES NOT INCLUDE DELIVERY BY MEANS OF THE UNITED STATES POSTAL SERVICE OR A PRIVATE MAIL DELIVERY SERVICE, OR DELIVERY BY OR ON BEHALF OF A PUBLISHER of NEWSPAPERS or similar Community Interest Publications .”

 

On Jul 10, 2009

Howdy All:

Was nice to get correspondence from a publisher we helped out on this same issue in rural Idaho, of all places outside the Mid-Atlantic…however, her story of excessive fines for a one-time Fair Housing infraction is stuff for another needed discussion. For that, Alyse and I have been talking about ways to carry out the Board’s discussion about compiling all of our knowledge gained through victories across the wide gamut of issues these last few years…one idea is a booklet, which we could PDF, another could be a password protected Community Paper Policy Blog (which could also hold the latest version of that PDF), any thoughts?

And in one of the back & forths with Cynthia on this Baltimore County nonsense, the question of best terminology to describe our papers came up — we use “community paper” as an industry, but it exists nowhere in state or federal statute…yet! Wikipedia might be just the place to officially coin it, there are now 41 entries that reference the term, but no page yet for “Community Paper.” I think we should go for it, would help in future efforts as we use language in a variety of situations that are often context specific, as follows:

Spoke with Jack at MDDC a bit ago, bit my tongue on his attempt to carve his own loophole for only “newspapers” backfiring with the unintended paid v. free language. The County Executive’s out for a wedding, will veto when he gets back next week, and we’ll be working with the sponsor to get the best language to distinguish between publishing as an ongoing enterprise that is not content specific and the sporadic act of neighborhood decorating with printed (not published) materials. Here’s what I proposed, which modifies what MDDC originally proposed using only the term “newspaper,” which then got lost with the repurposing of Legals Law definition. It does 2 things: Separates Publishers from Handbill Banditos & Reinforces that Newspaper definition not meant to be taken in context of Legals Law, i.e. paid. Please let me know what y’all think about this, and the ideas above.

Best Always,

Jim

 

Dear County Executive Smith,

I’m writing to confirm that information shared by both Councilman Olszewski’s LD and Jack Murphy, ED of the MDDEDC Press Association is correct: That Councilman Olszewski has asked for, and you have agreed to veto Bill No. 49-09 relating to litter. As written and approved, the provisions could prohibit distribution of our members’ free community newspapers. We understand that was never the intent, but that was result in using language from Maryland Statute relating to Legal Advertising.

Please let me know if and when you will veto this legislation that will cause harm to our publishers.

Respectfully,

Jim

Jim Haigh

Government Relations Consultant

Mid-Atlantic Community Papers Association

427 Ridge Street

Emmaus, PA 18049

(o) 610.965.4032

(f) 610.965.5629

(c) 610.504.2010

 

July 16, 2009

 

Sure. Thank you for protecting community newspapers and free journalism!

: )

 

Ellen Kobler, Deputy Director

Baltimore County Office of Communications

410-887-2470

ekobler@baltimorecountymd.gov

 

>>> jim haigh <jimhaigh@fast.net> 7/16/2009 2:16 PM >>>

Thank you so much, Ellen!

 

Greetings All,

As promised, the Baltimore Co. litter bill has been officially vetoed, and we’re working with MDDEDC on language we’ll agree upon — distinguishing all publishers from handbill banditos — to take to Councilman Olszewski.

Best,

Jim

 

…and, finally, here’s the veto letter:BCVETO

Government happens to you…

In Cap & Trade, Do-Not-Deliver, Environmental Impact, Fair Housing Rules, Healthcare Reform, Legal Advertising, Network Neutrality, Uncategorized on July 24, 2009 at 12:09 pm

…If you let it! Welcome to the Free Paper Policy Blog & Data Warehouse! The goal here is to create constructive dialogue and provide proven resources to deal with the vast array of threats and opportunities facing the free community paper industry. The wonky topics found here include HUD & Fair Housing Advertising, Do-Not-Deliver/Mail Case Studies, Dominion & DistribuTech Rack Monopolies, FCC, PLCB, Legal Advertising Reform, Workers Comp, Healthcare Reform, Unionization, Environmental Impact, Open Networks/Net Neutrality, Deep Packet Inspection…and comprehensive notes on all the neato stuff we’ve battled, won & learned from!