Let’s see — the city is going to spend $1.2 million to police newspaper racks  downtown. We’ll ignore the free speech issues, since there will undoubtedly be a lawsuit that will cost taxpayers another couple of million dollars to defend. So let’s look at why else this is such a silly idea (and know that the Advocate has no racks affected by the ordinance, so my analysis is strictly whether it is good policy):

• Cleaning news rack clutter as a panacea. Ah yes, the problems downtown — struggles to lure retail and residents, all those pot holes, crime — will be solved by standardizing news racks. Of course they will. Her Mayorness, in one of her last official acts, said so: "It’ll make downtown look a lot better. This is a great move."

• We really don’t need that money for anything else, do we? Code enforcement, cops, library books? Sigh. I suppose I should just shut up and be grateful we’re not giving the money to another developer.

• A patchwork remedy instead of a long-term solution, something our city government does a lot. This is the city plan to revitalize downtown. Compare it to the plan to revitalize New York City. The latter may have a bunch of stuff that sounds odd, but it’s aggressive and forward thinking.

The rack ordinance is not about cleaning up downtown. It’s about sticking it to the media. This is something politicians like to do, just to show they can do it. And especially if they can spend someone else’s money.



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