Federal judge rules against 'Contributor' in Brentwood case

Wednesday, November 14, 2012 at 1:52pm

A federal judge in Nashville has dismissed a lawsuit challenging a Brentwood ordinance that prevented street vendors of street newspaper The Contributor to sell to vehicle occupants from sidewalks.

U.S. District Court of Middle Tennessee Judge Todd Campbell ruled in favor of the city’s motion for summary judgment on Tuesday after hearing arguments from both sides last month.

Brentwood argued that the sale of newspapers from sidewalks to vehicles at stoplights was a safety and traffic issue.

“The City’s primary concern in this matter has always been public safety. Selling newspapers or anything else to vehicle occupants on public streets creates a safety risk,” Brentwood City Manager Mike Walker said in a press release. “It was never the City's intention to prohibit the sale of newspapers or to exclude anyone from Brentwood.”

The American Civil Liberties Union backed The Contributor, a paper sold by homeless and formerly homeless vendors, and claimed the ordinance suppressed its constitutional rights of free speech and freedom of the press.

But in court last month, Brentwood’s attorneys claimed there were other methods of distribution available for The Contributor to sell. For instance, they could go door-to-door to sell their product — or set up vending machines.

According to a statement from Brentwood officials, by ruling in favor of the city, Campbell acknowledged The Contributor’s possible alternative methods of sales and communication.

In response to the ruling, Irwin Venick, attorney for the ACLU, said, “We are very disappointed with the court’s decision because we believe it limits freedom of speech and press. Brentwood’s ordinance unfairly targets The Contributor and its vendors, broadly restricting the very type of face-to-face speech central to the paper’s mission of fostering dialogue about homelessness with people who have experienced it. We are currently evaluating the decision and weighing our options.”

Brentwood statement on Contributor ruling.pdf233.69 KB

35 Comments on this post:

By: Rasputin72 on 11/14/12 at 1:33

I am always thrilled when productive Americans find a way to stop the onslaught of unproductive Americans wanting "free stuff"

By: docjunkie on 11/14/12 at 3:06

This feature-length documentary about The Contributor will screen at Belcourt Theatre on November 20th: http://www.streetpaperfilm.com

By: treehugger7 on 11/14/12 at 3:41

Thanks, doc, for the info--I'll be there!

By: WickedTribe on 11/14/12 at 4:19

I would be shocked and amazed if door-to-door salesmen annoy the citizens of Brentwood less than street corner vendors.

By: mfp41685 on 11/14/12 at 8:22

Judge Campbell and the city of Brentwood obviously have no clue how the contributor sales work or they would never have suggested something so stupid as using a vending machine or going door to door. This is just more obnoxious behavior by our insular neighbors to the south. These are the same people who argued against apartments and condos being built in Brentwood because they couldn't associate with "apartment people". The whole thing just makes me sick.

By: Rasputin72 on 11/15/12 at 1:42

Mfp41685......I would like to add to your diatribe that Brentwood also voted heavily for Mitt Romney.

The very audacity of those neighbors to the South. The next thing you know those "neighbors" will be passing laws requiring people to be personally responsible.

By: yogiman on 11/15/12 at 6:22

The Brentwooders are special. You should only party and sleep there.They don't want a person to make a living off the sidewalk like newspaper sellers did in Nashville decades ago.

That makes them look like a common place.

By: .45carry on 11/15/12 at 8:15

A couple of observations/comments:

1. Brentwood requires permits for any door-to-door soliciting.

2. Brentwood traffic is hazardous at the best of times, add in street vendors and you've created a dangerous situation for both the drivers and solicitors.

3. Brentwood doesn't have medians like those in Franklin/Cool Springs area, there is no place for the vendors to occupy other than a sidewalk. Crossing a street to sell a newspaper to someone making a left turn during rush hour traffic almost guarantees an accident, possibly a death.

By: Jughead on 11/15/12 at 9:02

The Contributer is simply organized begging which has NOTHING to do with the 1st Amendment.

By: Jughead on 11/15/12 at 9:03

I am sick of these begging bums on every corner holding up traffic. It is dangerous.

By: lyndafjones on 11/15/12 at 9:17

Jughead, Papers were once sold in the streets at the turn of the century. The men and women at the Contributor WORK
HARD all day long . Try reading the paper. You may find it enlightening..Your heart may need it.

By: .45carry on 11/15/12 at 9:28

lyndaf....I assume you meant the turn of the century 112 years ago. I can assure you, it was much easier to dodge a horse and buggy back then, than a Dodge Ram pickup traveling at 30mph+ today.

By: Jughead on 11/15/12 at 9:51

@lyndajonesboro: This is NOT journalism, it is begging using the 1st Amendment as a shield. Put the damn papers in a traditional newsbox and quit BEGGING all day long. Don't buy these papers, folks, you are feeding the bears. Make them get real jobs and quit BEGGING.

By: Jughead on 11/15/12 at 9:53

Homeless bums are dangerous creeps who rape, steal, and defecate in the streets. They are NOT people "down on their luck." They are drunks/druggies/criminals who made a choice.

Liberals can play make-believe to feel good about themselves, but that does not change truth.

By: Jughead on 11/15/12 at 10:27

@lynda: I give my $$ to Humane Societies and Childrens' Hospitals. That way, I help creatures who did not CHOOSE their fate like bums.

It's your bleeding liberal heart that needs to take your holier-than-thou BS and find a legitimate purpose in life.

By: yucchhii on 11/15/12 at 10:58

Hey "JUGHEAD"......I have to say this...the USA has had wars over the enemy wanting to come take over and take away our rights to many things such as freedom of expression. You sir, absolutely have that right to excorsize it. Many people have given their lives for you to have that ability. HOWEVER, when you express your opinion, you should be sure that your opinion has SOME SORT OF INTELLIGENCE level to it. So far, every time I see your comments, it does nothing but degrade situations or people that you have "NO CLUE" about. There is a saying that makes all the sense in the world..."Be sure brain is engaged before opening mouth." Your legs must be quite used to bending upward in order to not only have your feet in your mouth but to KEEP them there too. Your leg mucles must be really in condition. How about a suggestion: Take your feet out of your mouth and let your legs relax for a change. Those of us that HAVE some intelligence level, are getting aches in OUR leg muscles to see yours like that on a continuous basis!!!! Now, go home and eat a popsicle and behave!!!

By: Jughead on 11/15/12 at 1:00

@Yucchinonsense: This is not about expression, this is about begging. The liberal do-gooders just figured a way around panhandling laws...period. Has NOTHING to do with the 1st Amendment.

Just another example of how the US Constitution is trampled in the name of political correctness.

Bums BEGGING on the street corner--hmm...wish I could get them off of mine, too!

By: Jughead on 11/15/12 at 1:02

Bums are a menace who designed their own fates. I will never embrace someone who drugged/drank themselves to idiocy, then begs me for money.

By: Woodvale Neighbor on 11/15/12 at 3:06

Jughead, just how much do you know about The Contributor? Have you ever actually taken the time to talk to a Contributor salesperson? Do you know how the program even works? The salespeople purchase the papers themselves for $.50 and sell them for a dollar. Do you even get that the whole concept of the paper was to give homeless or down on their luck people a chance to earn their own money? Some the salespeople are contributing writers and poets. Have you ever worked with organizations like Room at the Inn? Do you understand that many people who end up on the streets are veterans? Some are suffering from crippling mental illness and PTSD. Some have chronic diseases like cancer, or degenerative diseases like Alzheimer's or dementia. Some have no loved ones left to care for them.

Calling Contributor salespeople 'bums' or 'beggars' illustrates your ignorance of how capitalism works. In this case, the Contributor sellers buy a product wholesale and then sell it at a retail price. The difference is their profit which they get to keep. Just to be clear- that is called WORKING, not begging.

But, it's certainly easier to just call them bums and not care about them, I guess. You're a really sad person. I feel sorry for anyone so lacking in compassion and decency.

By: Jughead on 11/15/12 at 3:26

@Woodvale: It is BEGGING in disguise. We both know it, only you will not admit it. If the want money--quit BEGGING and get a job.

Sheesh--you people are liberal idiots. I've read the stupid communist-leaning paper, and I am familiar with Room At the Inn. Again, I contribute to folks who did not volunteer for their pathetic drugged and drunken lives.

Get them off the corner. Panhandling is illegal for a reason.

By: Jughead on 11/15/12 at 3:28

And, yes--the dang "salesperson" (begger) in front of Walgreens downtown harasses passersby everyday. No, I don't speak to him because I don't talk to bums and beggers.

All that time begging, and he could be getting a real job. Instead, harasses people for a dollar and hiding like a weasel behind the 1st Amendment.

By: Woodvale Neighbor on 11/15/12 at 3:54

Begging is asking for money and giving nothing in return. Selling a newspaper is not begging or panhandling- it is called selling. Get a job, you say? That's what they're doing by selling the paper! What other kind of job do you think they could get? They are earning money and gaining experience. I'd think someone like you would be happy about that.

Not all homeless people are drunk or on drugs. A great many of them are suffering from crippling mental illness or disease. I know this because I've taken the time to talk to some of The Contributor's salespeople. I also personally know people who are involved in the operation of the paper. I have met some amazing people through volunteering with Room in the Inn. Some of their stories are heart breaking but their desire to right their lives is inspirational.

You think you know me? I think I know you. Looking down on others and assuming the worst about them makes you pretty good about yourself, doesn't it? It's so much easier to make negative assumptions about people and it makes you feel good to pat yourself on the back for all your great choices in life. I grew up around people like you in my family- always complaining about how others are lazy, undeserving, dirty, stupid. Yeah, I know your type. Call me a liberal if you want- if that means I give a damn about others and don't stereotype them into boxes to make myself feel superior, then so be it. I guess I'm a liberal. I'd sure rather be that than what you are.

By: Jughead on 11/15/12 at 4:35

@Woodvale: Blah,blah,blah. It IS begging, no matter how you try to lie. I don't like panhandlers.

By: Jughead on 11/16/12 at 10:33

@Woodvale: Of course you are a liberal. We did not need an incomprehensible diatribe from you to know that.

And, like all liberals, you want something for free--and want working people to pay for it. Welfare and free stuff are what got Obama reelected. Everybody likes Santa...gimme,gimme,gimme.

By: Woodvale Neighbor on 11/16/12 at 12:14

What about anything I've written leads you to think I want something for free? That's a bit of a leap, don't you think? But I get it- I care about homeless people and support The Contribitor so that must make me a liberal which must mean that I'm on food stamps or welfare. I work hard and make good money although I did get a scholarship for college so part of college was free. I certainly pay my taxes and have been for the 25 years that I have worked. I own my own home. I do get a deduction for my mortgage interest, though. You got me there. Oh, and I get a deduction for my kids. Now my family, hmmm, well, my dad did go to college on the GI bill after two tours of combat duty in Vietnam and a purple heart. But, that was in exchange for his service, so I'm not sure what you'd call that. My grandparents were the real freeloaders, though. They both worked their whole lives (including my grandpa's service in WWIi) and then had the audacity to collect social security and Medicare all while living in their small little house.

I'm bored with you now. Happy Thanksgiving! What joy you must get thinking about all the bums and beggars on the streets during the holidays, getting their just rewards for their miserable failures. Peace to you.

By: Jughead on 11/16/12 at 12:43

@Woody: You reap what you sow. The difference between us is that you want to reach in my pocket to pay for others' poor choices. Keep your sneaky hands out of my pockets, puke.

By: Woodvale Neighbor on 11/16/12 at 12:59

Yes, you do reap what you sow. Hope all the bitterness, anger, and general misery that you choose to sow turns out well for you.

By: yucchhii on 11/16/12 at 1:16

Jughead...NO! it's NOT about begging or expression as far as the homeless are concerned. I said that you have the right to freedom of expression...we ALL do, BUT, I was refering to you in particular. I know all about homeless people. YOU want to catagorize all in one! You speak as if you know ALL about homeless and it's OBVIOUS that you DON'T! In fact, you know DIDDLEY!! I know that for a fact!! The homless are just like anybody else that isn't homeless. Look at your friendly neighborhood politician...Your last comment even shows where your mind "ISN'T". Your words were quote "The difference between us is that you want to reach in my pocket to pay for others' poor choices. keep your hands out of my pockets, puke!" Now I can tell by the context of which you say that, it wasn't directed at the homeless but to put the blame on some else...HMMmm, could that be a POLITICIAN? Now, who there is doing the BEGGING according to YOUR words!! The difference between the homeless you speak of and to who you directed that statement is..."THEY BEG WITH WITH AUTHORITY AND YOU CAN'T DO ANYTHING ABOUT IT!" I know MANY MANY homeless that walk right in front of you and you can look right at them and NEVER EVEN KNOW THEY'RE HOMELESS!! You need to look at what you are saying and see where your making yourself to be one of the BIGGEST fools around. How does it feel to be one of the BIGGEST stereo typers in tennessee? Of course you need not feel bad though..your not the ONLY one who is stereo typing. MAYBE if you get with the RIGHT people, you can be educated of the REALITIES of homelessness as to who is homeless and WHY...NOT everybody is homeless because of drugs or alcohal. The reasons why people become homeless are like a snowflake. Many become homeless due to circumstances BEYOND THEIR CONTROL!! Now, as to the issue in Brentwood, I agree with the city and NOT because of how YOU look at it, but because it's simple...it "IS" a safety issue. Jughead, I simply ask that you do some reserch into the matter of homeless and you WILL find that you are WRONG! If you know what I know about the problem of homelessness, then what you actually see with your eyes, will take on a different meaning..I can PROMISE that!! Oh and by the way, are you a vet of the military? If so, then how about some compassion for your fellow vet that's out there on the street? Do you know what the REAL reason is why THEY are homeless...DO YOU? If so, explain it to me if you know so much about homelessness...your the EXPERT arn't you? Lets hear it. Then when you have questions about why...ask. don't assume...you know what they say when you assume!!

By: gid on 11/16/12 at 1:42

I need some popcorn

By: gid on 11/16/12 at 1:49

I used to give to the sellers...at first it was only one here or there now they are on every corner, several at one traffic light.
I just took a second job - today I will be working from 6am till 1am. Why cant the sellers, instead of standing all day for a handout, get a entry job? I did...I dont like it and will be very tired!

By: Jughead on 11/16/12 at 3:48

DO NOT buy the Contributor. You are enabling panhandling.

By: Jughead on 11/16/12 at 3:49

@yucchi: One thought: write less. I gave up after the first sentence because your grammar, punctuation, and content was incomprehensible.

By: Jughead on 11/16/12 at 3:51

Most "homeless" (BUMS) are there by choice. They could have chosen to work..instead...they beg on street corners hawking a stupid paper that was only created to skirt panhandling laws.


By: Ask01 on 11/18/12 at 4:23

So Jughead, (such an appropriate screen name for an empty container) are you offering employment?

I can assure you, finding a job is not as easy as you seem to believe.

I was out of work for three years, and I hardly fit the somewhat dubious and suspect stereotype you perpetuate. Retired from the Air Force, laid off due to a soured economy and advancing technology, great credit rating, homeowner, and steady, until then, work history with nothing but lauditory comments from former employeers.

Considering some employers suffer the same rectal cranial inversion as you, if I couldn't find work, how do you expect these folks to secure employment?

They may have made some bad choices in their past, (and who hasn't) But they deserve a second chance if they are willing to put forth the effort, no matter what the "compassionate" conservatives might think.

If you complain and aren't part of the solution, you are part of the problem. You may wish to cork the jug before it is totally empty, unless the situation is already hopeless.

By: Coffee Taco on 11/18/12 at 11:22

So Jughead, what you're saying is that the people who sell the Contributor are bums and are actually panhandling?