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Postponing decision, county finds possible new argument to restrict Strip handbillers

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.

Updated Tuesday, Sept. 18, 2012 | 4:47 p.m.

Clark County lawyers and Strip casino operators may have inadvertently been given a remedy to an issue that has vexed them for years: What to do about handbillers, many of whom hand out girlie/adult pamphlets, to tourists on the Strip.

Last month, the County Commission approved a new littering ordinance requiring handbillers to clean the sidewalk within a 25-foot diameter because so many tourists grab the handbills then drop them on the ground.

At Tuesday’s meeting, commissioners were discussing a plan to create one model of newsrack all vendors would be required to use. The idea grew out a committee established in 2011 to look at ways to clean up the Strip, which falls under the legal purview of county commissioners.

Attorney Jeff Silver, representing newsrack companies, said two forms of publication distribution take place on the Strip — via newsracks and by people who pass out “girls-to-your-room” pamphlets.

Silver said it was unfair that newsracks were bolted and confined to specific areas next to the curb while so-called card slappers “are nothing more than mobile newsracks standing in front of persons traversing the sidewalk.”

“If the newsracks are on the sidewalk parallel to the curb, then the pamphleteers should be in the same general area and not in the middle of the sidewalk with their hands out blocking tourists,” Silver said. “It’s a safety issue and an issue of equal protection.”

He also uttered the key words, “time, place and manner,” which are categories of restrictions that government is allowed to place on content-neutral speech protected by the First Amendment. For instance, if the free speech causes potential safety problems, government is allowed to restrict the time, place and manner of that speech.

Silver also said the handbillers were impacting the business of those who owned newsracks because they blocked them and used newsracks as mini-storage areas for stacks of handbills.

Silver’s request to have the county consider newsracks and pamphleteers as the same, county observers said, appeared to open the door to place more restrictions on pamphleteers.

Agreeing with Silver, Commissioner Steve Sisolak, who established the Strip cleanup committee, said “our intention is that everyone be afforded the same protection.”

County Manager Don Burnette, who was part of the committee, said, “There’s a good reason to step back and look at what’s suggested and consider time, place and manner restrictions that treat newsracks and handbillers the same.”

Another reason to step back, said Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani, is the fact that a Strip pedestrian study will be finished in a few weeks. That study will show where, if any, bottlenecks appear on the Strip, giving the county a better idea of how newsracks or pamphleteers are blocking pedestrian traffic.

“The Americans with Disablities Act is an issue, too — that we’re not further restricting people in a wheelchair or some kind of disability to get through,” Giunchigliani said.

The commission voted unanimously to postpone the matter for 60 days while county staff gathered more information.

Commissioners also asked staff for information on who was getting newsrack permits after one man said those permitted were subcontracting their spaces for thousands of dollars to publications not originally permitted.

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  1. @mrlucky and stephenrblv...All those publications and cards advertise are private, nude dances and that is perfectly legal. While many assume that these girls will also offer illegal prostitution, I bet the majority operate more on the clip joint mode business than that of a brothel. Lots of unfulfilled promises designed to separate tourist from cash with as little sexual contact as possible.

    However, I could be wrong, so please, mrlucky and stephenrblv, tell me about all the prostitutes you hired from those cards and news racks.

    What really amazes me is that these are not new issues, and both the city and the county have spent a lot of money defending ordinances that seem to ignore well established case law and they lose every time.

    It's like they were all born yesterday and think that if they just keep drafting the same old ordinances that thy'll get lucky and catch the 9th circuit and SCOTUS asleep at the wheel.

    Why won't these elected officials treat the Constitution like the law of the land and not like some annoying thing they must find a way to circumvent?

  2. The content of the the cards and papers doesn't bother me. It doesn't really bother the tourists either. What bothers everyone is the rude, in your face attitude of the canvassers who slap cards and shove them in your face. Leave the ads in the newsracks and everything will be fine, because people who are really interested WILL go and obtain the papers out of them. I know this for a fact, because I've seen it personally while looking out of room windows. Littering here truly is the big, massive issue as well that everyone wants to deal with. You get a massive rainstorm, and you've got to get the water out of the street. The problem is that all this extra litter keeps clogging up the drains on the strip and elsewhere, and it causes flooding. Free speech is fine, and I fully support it. As long as whatever is in these ads is legal, remains legal, and remains between consenting adults, I fully support it too. But when this stuff starts becoming a hazard and creates a public safety issue, we need to get rid of it.

  3. stephenrblv - "We all know what they are for crying out loud."

    So glad that you now want to replace due process of law and actual evidence with opinion.

    So if we get enough people to all say that "We all know that stephenrblv is a criminal for crying out loud" then you'll just meekly report to jail with no complaint?

    Or are you going to insist that YOU are innocent until proven guilty...even though you expect others to be punished just because you "know" that they are guilty (but can't prove anything)?

  4. This I gotta see. The counties newest future failed idea is to "have the county consider newsracks and pamphleteers as the same." How's that work exactly? Somebody takes a magazine out of the news rack and then tosses it on the ground, and the police are supposed to issue a citation to the newsrack? If the county wants to treat them both the same then their shinny new (Supreme Court Rejected) litter ordinance is useless.

    And to all those who keep prattling on and on about the1st Amendment not protecting commercial speech or advertising, please do a little research. SCOTUS as ruled commercial speech is protected since the early '70s.

  5. @mrlucky...What an amazing idea. So simple and yet so UNCONSTITUTIONAL.

    TINKER v. DES MOINES SCHOOL DIST.,"Freedom of expression would not truly exist if the right could be exercised only in an area that a benevolent government has provided as a safe haven for crackpots. The Constitution says that Congress (and the States) may not abridge the right to free speech. This provision means what it says. We properly read it to permit reasonable regulation of speech-connected activities in carefully restricted circumstances. But we do not confine the permissible exercise of First Amendment rights to a telephone booth "

    TERMINIELLO V. CITY OF CHICAGO "free speech under our system of government is to invite dispute...even stirs people to anger. Speech is often provocative and challenging. It may strike at prejudices and preconceptions and have profound unsettling effects...That is why freedom of speech ..is nevertheless protected against censorship or punishment..."

    The only time the specific free speech zones have be upheld by the court are when the areas are CONTENT NEUTRAL, not in areas of minimal pedestrian traffic and encompass a significant portion of the public area.

    You idea is not content neutral, located in a area with significantly less pedestrian traffic, and less than 1% of Las Vegas Blvds resort corridor.