Publishers have concerns over proposed law to limit deliveries

by Paul Kozakiewicz

In an effort to limit litter in the City, a San Francisco supervisor has introduced legislation that would hit newspaper publishers with stiff fines if they deliver to people who do not want the newspaper.

The legislation calls for all publishers to maintain a "do not deliver" list that the public can get on to stop delivery of the newspaper. If a paper is delivered to someone on the list, they can appeal to the director of the Department of Public Works for action.

The director would determine guilt or innocence. If a publisher is found guilty of an infraction, they could be fined $100 for the first offense, $200 for the second and $500 for the third.

Legal challenges would be handled by the City Attorney's Office.

According to the legislation's sponsor, Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi, the fines are not set in stone and he is reconsidering the punitive aspects of the legislation.

The "do not deliver" legislation would apply to newspapers and all handbills, including restaurant menus.

Money from fines would go into the city's General Fund.

Publishers in the city have some concerns about the legislation because they see it as being unworkable and a potential infringement on the First Amendment. Organizations and businesses that use volunteers to distribute fliers would also be affected.

Many publishers use delivery services to distribute their newspapers and handbills. Under the legislation, the publishers would be responsible for the actions of the delivery service, even though they have no connection to the people who are walking the beat, delivering the paper.

Mirkarimi said political fliers that are distributed door-to-door are exempt from the legislation.

Another concern is the ability of the public to claim an action against a publisher for a delivered publication or handbill, whether true or not, that could result in an infraction and hefty fine.

Mirkarimi said he is willing to work with the diverse group of publishers in the City to find solutions to the litter problem. He said he is considering starting off with a voluntary plan, which could be revisited if it does not achieve its intended results.