[Full disclosure: The Press Club's webmaster is Dave Price, an owner of the Daily Post.]
The city of Palo Alto seized 27 newsracks belonging to the 2-month-old Daily Post on Thursday.
The action was triggered by complaints from the rival Palo Alto Weekly. A city public works official, Bob Morris, agreed with the Weekly that placing free-standing racks (such as the blue one at left) downtown violated the city newsrack ordinance, which forces newspapers to use modular newsracks (the unit of four on the right).
But when the city failed to act on the Post's request for spaces in the modular racks, the newspaper put out the freestanding racks.
Last week, nearly three months after the Post asked for space in the modular racks, the city granted it 14 spots -- far less than the 38 spots held by the Palo Alto Daily News or 31 occupied by the Palo Alto Weekly.
Then, after the Post had installed racks into just three of the 14 spaces it had been awarded, the city Public Works Department began loading the paper's freestanding racks onto a flat-bed truck at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday. The Post's circulation manager, Amando Mendoza, caught up with the truck at about noon and persuaded the city workers to drop the racks off at the newspaper's offices at 324 High St.
When the racks were seized, they would have contained more than 1,000 papers, Mendoza said. But when they arrived at the Post's office, they had only 120 papers. Post Editor and Co-Publisher Dave Price has filed a theft report with Palo Alto Police over the missing papers, citing Penal Code Section 490.7 that makes it a crime to take more than 25 papers from the box of a free newspaper. Police told him they would investigate the complaint.
Meanwhile, the Post on Thursday put the racks back where they had been located previously, in defiance of city officials. (Here's a PDF of the Post's stories that ran Thursday. The Post doesn't have a Web site.) The following is from the Post's story by reporter Ian Port:
- Mayor Larry Klein said yesterday that it was only fair that competiting dailies get the same amount of space in city-administered newsracks.
"I'm concerned when any newspaper's racks are confiscated," Klein told the Post.
Ronna Devincenzi, head of the California Avenue Area Development Association who keeps a close eye on newsracks in her part of town, called the city's move "outrageous."
She said she's seen newsracks vacant so long that residents have used them to store groceries.
"(The Post) had no other option (than to put out freestanding racks). If you had waited for the city, you'd never have space," said Devincenzi. "For the area of all of downtown, 14 is not enough if the Daily News has 38."
Overnight the Post replaced the 27 newsracks that the city removed.
"Until the city provides a level playing field, and allows us as many spaces as our competitors, these freestanding newsracks aren't going anywhere. And if the bureaucrats at City Hall don't like it, they can throw me in jail," said Price.