Las Vegas Sun

May 3, 2015

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City/County Q&A:

County considers covering up girlie newsracks


Steve Marcus / FILE

A man checks out a newsrack on the Strip near Spring Mountain Road containing magazines advertising female entertainers who will travel to homes and hotel rooms.

Slowly but surely, the Clark County Commission is moving toward changes that will alter the way newsracks – including those holding leaflets advertising “girls, girls, girls” – are displayed on the Strip.

Aren’t newsracks untouchable, in that they are modes for dissemination of information protected by First Amendment of the Constitution?

Neither the county nor the city has found a way to get rid of newsracks for just that reason; attempts to squelch any kind of speech on downtown’s Fremont Street Experience or on the Strip have repeatedly been defeated in court.

But a proposed ordinance isn’t going at content in the leaflets; it’s addressing the appearance of the racks.

At last week’s commission meeting, a new ordinance was introduced – it will be debated Sept. 18 – to create a uniform style of newsrack to replace the different types, sizes and colors currently out there. The argument for uniformity is that the multitude of racks are unsightly and add to the general disorder on the Strip. A committee of casino executives and county staffers met over several months last year to figure out ways to combat growing Strip problems. New racks are just one of several proposed solutions.

So we might have nice newsracks, but my 9-year-old son still will be able to walk by, or spy from the car window, the near-naked women gracing the front pages of some of these publications?

That remains to be seen.

The introduced ordinance gives some height and weight dimensions for racks, but it doesn’t have pictures or say what the front would look like. In other words, it doesn't say how open the newsracks would be to the public. Behind the scenes, though, sources say there is some talk about putting “blinders” on some or all racks, meant to block some of those front-page images.

Has that been done anywhere else?

It has. Mountain View, Calif., has explicit rules for newsracks that might contain “harmful matter to the public view” in places where minors may see them. Its ordinance says the racks need “blinders” that cover the lower two-thirds of the material that would have been exposed to the public.

Some of the county’s proposal also mirrors one adopted in 1998 in San Francisco and upheld in court. It allows for the removal of free-standing racks and replacement with uniform racks.

If the county adopts a new ordinance, will it include wording similar to the one in Mountain View?

Again, that’s hard to say. The Mountain View ordinance was not challenged, so it’s difficult to predict if a similar law here would survive judicial review. However, the “girls direct to your room” businesses don’t put those pictures on the front cover for nothing, so a legal challenge might be expected.

County Commissioner Steve Sisolak, one of the people behind the formation of the Strip committee meant to find solutions, said something along the same lines would “be something to consider since we have children traversing the Strip.”

Who will pay for the new racks that the county provides?

That isn’t outlined in the new ordinance, either. There is some talk about increasing permit fees for the companies that use the racks. Currently, the county charges an initial permit fee of $25, then $65 per year for renewal. In San Francisco, advertisement on the boxes is used to offset their cost to the city.

How many racks are in the county?

Within the gaming overlay district, which includes the Strip and miles of streets around it, 1,410 newsracks exist, according to the county website. Of those, 90 are directly on the Strip (Clark County’s portion of it stretches south from about Sahara Avenue ).

Quote of the Week

“Don’t read them.”

– Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman, on Wednesday, to a resident who said he couldn’t tell from a newspaper article if the city had the right to take property from one private entity to give it to another. In fact, Councilman Bob Beers wondered about that possibility during a meeting in August, which newspapers reported. Beers said state law allowed redevelopment agencies like the city’s to employ private-to-private takings, although that would violate Nevada’s Constitution. City staff said it may seek a change in the state redevelopment statute to make the law coincide with the Constitution.

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  1. "Mountain View, Calif., has explicit rules for newsracks that might contain "harmful matter to the public view" in places where minors may see them...'

    And this is exactly why what works for Mountain View just won't work for Las Vegas. The MV, ordinance is based on a little thing called "community standards."

    As long as the images on those fliers/magazines are no more explicit than the images plastered on the casino marquis (and they aren't) then you can't really argue that the material in the news racks is "harmful matter to the public view." If a picture of a woman's butts in a g-string isn't harmful when its fifty feet tall in from of Bally's, then how can anyone argue similar images suddenly become harmful when condensed to a 5"x7" format and shoved inside a news rack.

    The hypocrisy of this secret "...committee of casino executives and county staffers." Is appalling. To act as if they don't peddle in the very same smut that's in these publications or on the cards handed out on the public sidewalks is ludicrous. This must be why they met in secret, refused to let any members of the general public (who have just as much rights to the Strip as they do) attend,and continue to maintain anonymity. They don't want anyone to know what two-faced "sums a bidges" they really are.

    If they really wanted to "clean-up" The Strip, they have the power to do so. Just take down every image where they are using sex to sell their properties, shut down all the topless shows and pools and enforce dress codes where women must be fully covered to set foot on their property.

    Basically all they need to do is fundamentally change their very nature and community standards will follow right behind.

    But the fact is this isn't about decency for the Casinos. Its about trying to eliminate a revenue stream that they just can't seem get their hands on.

  2. Commenter BGHS1986 has a valid point, as does BOB635. The US Constitution provides great latitude in interpreting our freedom of speech.

    It is reasonable for Clark County, and even the City of Las Vegas, to enact an "ordinance" to have uniform, nice looking media stands to grace the sidewalks in tourist sensitive areas. They cannot do much about restricting what goes into those media stands, but, for the sake of having a clean looking landscape that is pleasing to the eye and fits in with the area, they should be able to have some say. Afterall, these resorts surrounding the media stands have spent millions and billions of private dollars to build archetitechural wonders of the world that are massive and beautiful. Clutters of disassociated media racks does not fit the glamorous image these resorts are attempting to maintain.

    For Commenter Missd, there is a great distinction between the adult entertainment industry and forced human trafficking (of which you may have been referring to). In the USA, individuals have the right to their person (they own themselves), and to do as they wish within the law. The adult entertainment industry is a LEGAL billion dollar plus industry where folks who have that "bend" can have employment or their career. Clearly, it's not for everybody.

    For thousands of years, there is also a dark side industry, that of human enslavement and human trafficking---it continues to exist in our own modern times. This dark industry is both ILLEGAL and evil. "Victimizing" any person or creature is wrong and illegal, no matter where in the world you live, and should never be tolerated!

    Blessings and Peace,

  3. The greater the effort to sanitize Las Vegas, the more Las Vegas will resemble a giant shopping mall.

  4. @ missd..."It's not "free" speech when they are SELLING the prostitution of women."

    Have you actually taken one of those publications, contacted one of the numbers and when the young lady arrived, paid her for sex?

    I would venture the answer to that is no. You see there is a huge difference between what you believe to be true, and what you know to be true. The advertisers are very specific in what they offer, and they do not advertise prostitution.

    Is the incall nude dancer business ripe with the possibilities of illegal activities? Yes. But then so is the gaming industry as a whole. Just because some people have been known use gambling as cover for many illegal activities, until a crime is actually committed, no crime has been committed.

    "If the county commissioners cared to do anything right, they should stop the selling of women!"

    Well considering we are talking about THE OLDEST PROFESSION here, what makes you think that the Clark County Commissioners in all their dubious glory are equipped to succeed where no on in history has succeeded? Especially considering how the Casino industry participates in this industry themselves.

    And it seems you have no sense of American history, when you write, "Victimizing and selling women is not in the Constitution! So quit saying it's free speech when its not! Stop selling human beings!"

    Make no mistake the First Amendment was, in fact, written to protect the free speech rights of human traffickers. It was most certainly written with the intention of protecting those who bought and sold human beings. To suggest otherwise is to rewrite the past.

    And for those who don't seem to grasp the concept of COMMUNITY STANDARDS and try to compare the Vegas Strip to cities like "Dallas, Chicago, San Francisco, Atlanta, New York, Orlando.."ask yourself if any of those cities have 100 foot tall billboards nearly nude women advertising topless revues like Fantasy, Jubilee, X Burlesque and Peepshow.

    Our liberal community standards combined with way the gaming industry has marketed Las Vegas created a unique situation unlike, "Dallas, Chicago, San Francisco, Atlanta, New York, Orlando." We are not like those cities because we have done everything we could to keep from being like them.

    People come to Vegas because we are not "Dallas, Chicago, San Francisco, Atlanta, New York, or Orlando."

  5. @777....Why such contempt and hatred for the United States Constitution? Are you some kind of terrorist sympathizer he-llbent on bringing Sharia Law to Clark County.

    I'm going to let you in on a little secret. There is no need for any "fancy overpaid write an iron clad Ordinance to get these uly[sic] smut boxes off all the sidewalks everywhere in Clark County."

    Actually there is a very simple way to enact a straight forward law to get rid of both the smut boxes and the porn slappers.

    All you have to do is follow these steps .... not the ACLU, Not the 9th Circuit, not even the Supreme court will be able to stop you.