Las Vegas Sun

December 22, 2014

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County drops idea of banning Strip news racks, looks to take ownership of them

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Christopher DeVargas

Eddie Munoz owns and operates numerous news racks along Las Vegas Boulevard. The news racks are the subject of a proposed countywide ban. Munoz is seen Thursday, Oct. 17, 2013.

Clark County could soon find itself the owner of hundreds of news racks that line Strip sidewalks under a new ordinance introduced by commissioners today.

A county takeover would allow for the hundreds of privately-owned news racks along the Strip to be converted to a standard appearance, while troublesome boxes in high-traffic areas could be removed to reduce congestion.

But it would also mean the county would find itself closely tied to the strip club advertisements and other risque publications that currently fill most news racks.

Although the county wouldn’t be directly responsible for the material distributed through the news racks — that will fall to permitted private distributors — the association with the racy advertisements could make for a tough sell to the public.

Commissioners also will have to overcome the objections of the current owners of the news racks, who have fiercely protested previous attempts by the county to ban news racks.

By foregoing an outright ban in lieu of county control, the ordinance is meant to circumvent concerns of news rack owners while also avoiding any potential legal challenges on First Amendment grounds.

Current news rack owners would be first in line to receive permits to operate the county-owned boxes, allowing them to continue distributing their publications.

The county will solicit feedback from owners through a business impact statement completed in the coming weeks, with a public hearing and potential vote on the change in ownership scheduled for May 6.

If approved, the new law would represent a major victory in the county’s ongoing campaign to clean up the Strip.

The county is spending $3.1 million replacing and widening sidewalks, complying with Americans with Disabilities Act requirements and moving more than 200 poorly placed obstructions that get in pedestrians' way, ranging from fire hydrants to traffic signal poles and utility boxes.

But it’s had less success removing the handbillers and news racks that also clog sidewalks, exemplified by a failed attempt late last year to ban all news racks within 300 feet of Las Vegas Boulevard between Russell Road and Sahara Avenue.

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