Las Vegas Cites Public Safety in Bid To Ban News Racks

The commission of Clark County,
Nevada is expected to make a decision about a proposed ban on news
racks on and around Las Vegas Boulevard. Although the government
says the racks are a safety issue, people are fighting back,
calling the proposal an affront to local businesses and First
Amendment-protected rights.

There are an estimated 311 news racks along the Las Vegas Strip,
as well as on cross streets, that could be eliminated. They feature
everything from magazines and tourist information to advertisements
for call girls. If the county commission has its way in a battle it
has been waging
for years
, the businesses that operate the racks would have to
remove them by Jan. 1.

Now, people are pushing back in defense of free speech, business
freedom, and common sense.

The Las Vegas Sun quotes one rack owner, Kathryn
Gentile, who
, “I don’t think it’s a secret that adult-oriented
businesses and advertisements have always been disfavored. I
believe this is simply another attempt to ban that and circumvent
the First Amendment.”

The ACLU is taking sides with Gentile. Allen Lichtenstein, the
general counsel of the ACLU’s Nevada branch
, “The biggest problem with the proposal is that it
completely does away with a particular mode of communication, not
just within a small area, but within a much wider area — the resort
corridor. They don’t really have a justification for getting rid of
this First Amendment outlet.” Lichtenstein also pointed out that
eliminating news racks will not eliminate sidewalk congestion.
Instead, the problem could be exacerbated by an influx of people
handing out ads to replace the stationary bins.

Erik Pappa, a county spokesperson
, insisting that the issue was over safety. “We did
this pedestrian study… We had these guys look at pedestrian flow
up and down the Strip, and they found a bunch of bottlenecks. They
need to remove the obstructions.” He assured, “It’s strictly based
on the need to improve traffic flow because of the safety issues
involved,” he said.

“This is my livelihood. I was going to hand this down to my
kids. It’s a family-owned business,” explained another rack owner,
Eddie Munoz. He
the Las Vegas Review-Journal that he plans to
file a lawsuit if the commission approves the ban.

One could also question if this is the best allocation of time
and resources for the government to improve safety on the streets
of Las Vegas. After all, the city has nearly
the national median violent crime rate, and experiences
more than four times the number of crimes per mile as the national

from Hit & Run

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