Newsracks – Essential for Government Transparency

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Guest Commentary

I’m writing in vigorous opposition to the proposed ordinance regulating newsracks. Whatever good it might do, and I’m not convinced there is much, is overwhelmingly outweighed by the damage it will do by severely limiting the ability of both our visitors and residents to be informed about what’s going on in town. And frankly, I’m astonished that at least a couple council members haven’t seen this “damage in the making” and shot this proposal down when it first appeared.

The newsracks are a vital informational tool, telling visitors what’s happening, where it is, and what the good deals are. The local newspapers also do this, but much more importantly, they are the primary means for residents to be informed about what its government is doing, either for them, or to them. Having this information easily accessible to everyone is of critical importance to the well-being of our town.

The bulk of the preamble to this proposal is almost entirely about “negative aesthetic impact.” Much later there is lip service to “safety and inconvenience to pedestrians.”

As many here know, I spent thirty years on the faculty of a College of Fine Arts in a Midwestern university. I’ll bet I’ve been a part of more useless discussions about aesthetics than anybody else here. Give me a break! The seven-mile-long gauntlet of ugly concrete utility poles we’ve just installed along the boulevard has a negative aesthetic impact that outweighs that of the newsracks hundreds of times over. But – they are essential, and we live with them because they are. The public’s access to information is equally, or even more, essential. I would rather be aesthetically offended a thousand times than to see one tenth of a percent of the public’s access to information curtailed in any way.

This is a situation that isn’t broken and doesn’t need to be fixed. There has been no public outcry clamoring for it. Its source appears to be one individual with a personal agenda that I believe has nothing to do with aesthetics.

We live in a time where it has never been more important that the public have easy access to knowing what its governments, at all levels, are doing. This ordinance, whether intended or not, represents a “Declaration of War” on that access. If council passes it, their legacy will be, “The Council that tried to shut out the lights on transparency.” It will not reflect well or bring credit to anyone who votes for it.

 

Jay Light

Fort Myers Beach