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City bans newspaper sales from median strips

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    NMU         ARIZONA         Newsgathering         Nov 7, 2000    

City bans newspaper sales from median strips

  • The editor of the Tucson Citizen is considering fighting a street sales ban because the newspaper would lose more than 5 percent of its circulation.

In a 6-1 vote, the Tucson City Council last month banned the sale of newspapers from medians in the city’s roadways.

The ban prohibits the sale of any merchandise, solicitations for charities and begging from the medians and curbside beginning May 1.

Michael Chihak, editor and publisher of the Tucson Citizen, said the newspaper is considering whether to fight the ordinance in court.

Councilwoman Carol West proposed the ban as a safety issue, but supporters of the ban who spoke at the council meeting called beggars and street vendors eyesores, according to an Associated Press story.

About 50 vendors sell 2,400 copies of the Citizen each day, which makes up approximately 6 percent of the newspaper’s 40,000 daily sales, Chihak said.

“To lose that significant portion of our business would be very devastating to us,” he told the council. “We could go out of business.”

The vendors work as independent contractors for the newspaper and earn approximately $7 an hour. Amelia Cramer, an attorney for Tucson Newspapers, said the ordinance could send several vendors back into poverty. Cramer said many of the vendors use the job as a transition from unemployment. Tucson Newspapers handles circulation for both the Citizen and The Arizona Daily Star.

The week before the late-October council vote, Chihak proposed a plan to raise vendors’ pay and hold the city free from liability if they or their customers were injured.

“We’re not just in this for the money,” Chihak said in an interview. “We recognize there are safety issues.”

The newspaper also agreed to sponsor a traffic safety campaign, but the council turned a deaf ear to the proposal and approved the ban, Chihak said.

The push for a ban on median sales started in 1998 when drivers killed two vendors. Following the accidents, the council considered outlawing sales on roadways, but opted to require vendors and beggars to wear orange safety vests.


© 2000 The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

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