City Officials Put Different Color On How to Relate to Businesses FROM THE NEWSROOM By Jason Schaff As an editor I feel obligated to comment on the Los Angeles City Council’s appalling affront recently to freedom of speech and to one segment of the business community. I’m talking about the ordinance that governmental body has voted for to regulate news racks in the city. It’s a harsh slap at one industry segment,and it’s governmental intervention that is way over the top. And once again our elected officials get involved in something that in the grand scheme of things is really minor when they really should be concentrating on making our government work efficiently amid tough budget problems. It’s real weak political grandstanding. Yes, newspapers have been my livelihood almost my entire career, so I have a vested interest here. But really, the news rack ordinance won’t have any effect on my job here at the Business Journal. We don’t own any news racks. So consider that when you attempt to discount my opinion. The thing that really gets me on this issue is that the city council proposed an ordinance that demands that all news racks be painted ivy green. So when are these people that we voted for more interested in decorating than city funding, safety and keeping L.A. a great place to live? There are things about this proposed law that make sense. Each newspaper box needs a city permit under the ordinance. That makes sense, you’re dealing with businesses selling their wares on a city street. I’ll even go for the fact that the ordinance would limit the number of news racks to 16 for every 200 feet and set height and width limits. We also don’t want our street corners in our city to be even uglier than they are right now. But let’s clean the dirty sidewalks first. A city sidewalk is made of concrete and people walk on it and that is where you put news racks. Publishing companies don’t put the racks on somebody’s front lawn. The damaging thing about this particular lawmaking is that it singles out a particular industry and constrains its ability to market its product. That’s a basic affront to free enterprise. As publishers of newspapers in L.A. contend, painting all the news racks ivy green would make it difficult to differentiate between the papers when you approach the racks. It’s like requiring all companies to have the same logos or the same signs on their buildings. Yes, government regulation of industry is not new. But usually that occurs in circumstances where consumers would have a chance of getting injured or cheated if there wasn’t regulation. Not because some people don’t like the way things look. Never mind the constitutional questions inherent in ordinances such as this by requiring the racks to be ivy green it’s telling members of the press what their papers must look like. To the person walking down the sidewalk, they first see the ivy green rack not the paper’s front page. The more dangerous thing in a business sense is the fact that it’s government micromanaging business and how it functions. Instead of developing strategies that will keep businesses from leaving the city they’re merely pandering to pockets of political support. Business Journal Editor Jason Schaff can be reached at 818-316-3125 or at email@example.com.