Las Vegas Sun

June 29, 2015

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City/County Q&A:

County considers covering up girlie newsracks

Image

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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