Chicago Sneaks Free Newspaper Killing Law into Effect


By: Warner Todd Huston

Even though all the Founding Fathers pretended that they hated the media (which then meant newspapers and tract publishing) each of them had their very own newspaper supporters and nearly all paid for tracts that supported their viewpoints and policies to be published. These tracts and newspapers were usually subscription supported, but sometimes they were freely distributed. Flash forward to today in Chicago. Today, thanks to a law ushered in the back door right under everyone’s noses, it is illegal to distribute free newspapers. Were the Founders alive today, Richard Daley, King of Chicago, would prevent them from distributing their political papers to the public. No speech in King Daley’s city… not without HIS say-so, anyway.

Of course, like all busy body, cradle to the grave governments, the ordinance in question was ostensibly to do something “good” for us all. You see, Title 10, Chapter 8 of the Municipal Code was supposed to “help” us get rid of litter in this fair windy city.

But, tacked onto the law is a little section that bans the distribution of free publications. This ordinance made it unlawful to distribute free “newspapers, periodicals and directories of any kind on any public way or other public place or on the premise of private property in the city in such a manner that it is reasonably foreseeable that such distribution will cause litter.”

Who needs free speech when we can get rid of “litter,” eh?

So, which newspaper will King Daley consider to be “litter,” one wonders? And, what if a resident takes delivery of one of these so-called pieces of “litter”? Would they be prosecuted? Are they a party to criminal distribution of “litter”?

Of course, the Aldermen who voted 50 to nothing for this law are scrambling to answer critics of the ordinance. It seems fairly certain that not a one of them even read the thing before they voted, something that isn’t unusual in this city. They all claim, of course, that this ordinance would never be used to stop a community newspaper from being distributed.

But just wait for the first incumbent Alderman who decides he doesn’t like what a paper has to say about him during an election campaign! Just wait fir the first time King Daley doesn’t like what some small paper has to say about his trucking schemes or other criminal enterprises. Watch how quickly a newspaper becomes “litter” then.

And don’t for a second imagine that no city Alderman would employ such a dirty trick. Chicago has a long, black history of electoral hyjinx. From stealing opponent’s political signs to even running candidates with the same name as an opponent in order to split up his vote, the Chicago city council have played just about every illicit game one can think of to get elected.

For their part, the Aldermen are trying to claim that their law was only to apply to flyers and coupons, not political flyers or newspapers. But, is that any better? So, they are OK with political speech (which is good) but against capitalism?

And, naturally, not one Chicago politician alerted the public to their little plan, nor consulted any citizens or business to ask their opinion. They just passed it without debate.

This is just one more example that the meddling fat-cats who run the city of Chicago feel little need to consult the people who put them in office, the businesses that pay their bills, or the community at large.

So, don’t try to emulate the Founding Fathers and try to distribute newspapers and periodicals in Chicago. Your efforts will just be deemed as “litter” and made illegal.

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