The City of Brentwood proposed changes in its ordinances Thursday to allow homeless people to sell The Contributor newspaper on public sidewalks in the Nashville suburb.
But under the proposals, The Contributor’s sales people still could not go into the streets to hand the newspaper to motorists and collect the $1 price. For that reason, the ACLU claimed the city still was trampling on the newspaper’s First Amendment rights.
“It shuts down The Contributor completely” to limit sales to sidewalks, said Tricia Herzfeld, ACLU-Tennessee legal director.
“There’s not any pedestrian traffic in Brentwood, right?” Herzfeld added.
The Contributor and the ACLU filed a federal lawsuit against the city of Brentwood last week over sales of the newspaper. Earlier this year, the city fined eight of The Contributor’s vendors for selling the newspaper to passing motorists. City officials said police were worried about the safety of the sales people and the motorists as cars were stopping in traffic on the streets to make the transactions.
The city ordinance now prohibits the sale of any merchandise from public places. Under the proposed amendments, “an exemption is added for the sale or distribution of newspapers, magazines, periodicals, handbills, flyers and similar materials, as long as the activity is not conducted within the street itself and materials are not handed to vehicle occupants,” according to an explanation posted on the city’s website by the city staff.
“Under this exemption, the sale of newspapers on public sidewalks would be protected.”
The Brentwood City Commission is scheduled to consider the changes in the ordinance at its meeting Monday.
“It should be emphasized that the city has no interest in prohibiting the sale of newspapers, banning individuals from the city limits or ceasing contributions to worthy causes,” the staff said on the city’s website. “The purpose of the proposed ordinance is to prevent accidents and other safety hazards to motorists and pedestrians and to avoid interference with the safe and efficient flow of traffic on busy streets.”
“If the proposed amendments passed, staff anticipates that the court will find the lawsuit to be moot.”