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Nashville mayor vetoes plan to charge for newspaper racks

By The Associated Press

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 Partnership plan.

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.

Nashville publishers object to proposed news-rack limits
Group says legislation that would let government set fees for operating news boxes violates First Amendment. 04.10.07


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Panel finds First Amendment overrides security concerns invoked by airport authority. 03.15.10

News racks: more important than you might think
By Gene Policinski Nashville mayor vetoes a restraint on press freedom. Also: Reflections on Jerry Falwell, Larry Flynt and free speech. 05.17.07

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