NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Mayor Bill Purcell has vetoed a plan to regulate news
racks in the city, saying it would have infringed on constitutional protection
of a free press.
Purcell said the proposal to make publishers pay fees and maintain news racks
could be considered "an abridgment of a free press and raises significant First
Amendment issues," The Tennessean reported.
The Metro Council could have overridden the veto with a two-thirds vote at
its meeting on May 15 but did not. Instead, members agreed to act on the veto at
their June 5 meeting.
The council passed the measure last month to require the publications to pay
a fee for each rack in the public right of way and ensure they are kept clean
and out of the way of pedestrians.
A group of Nashville publishers, including those for The Tennessean, The
City Paper and the Nashville Scene, opposed being regulated and
proposed an alternative — paying fees to the nonprofit Nashville Downtown
Partnership to monitor racks for safety and maintenance.
But some council members, such as those representing outlying Davidson
County, said the deal would do nothing for their districts.
The Nashville Publishers Group, which comprises 22 publications, countered
that it would work with neighborhood and merchant groups to make sure racks in
other neighborhoods comply.
Some racks would be placed in "corrals" to limit their impact on pedestrian
traffic, said Keith Paige, general sales manager of the Employment Guide and an
organizer of the publishers group.
The councilman who sponsored the measure and represents much of downtown,
Mike Jameson, said not all local publishers have agreed to the Downtown
First Amendment Center Founder John Seigenthaler said Purcell "acted to protect First Amendment rights" and prevent "an unwanted lawsuit." Seigenthaler is also chairman emeritus of Nashville's The Tennessean newspaper.