BIA wants free newspapers banned in Chinatown

Andrew Sachs, Centretown News

Andrew Sachs, Centretown News

Chinatown businesses want free newspapers banned from the area to cut down on unsightly litter.

The Somerset Street Chinatown BIA wants free newspaper stands banned because papers are left strewn on streets − something businesses say is unsightly.

“We can’t keep up with the mess,” says Grace Xiu, executive director of the BIA. “I think the best solution is to get rid of them.”

Free newspaper stands in the area include the Metro, 24 Hours, Capital Xtra, the Ottawa Business Journal and Ottawa XPress.

“They’re of no benefit to our streets,” says Xiu. “They just make it messy.”

This week, the BIA filed an official complaint with Somerset Coun. Diane Holmes outlining how “the mess” is upsetting business owners and taking a toll on city clean-up crews.

Holmes says the city will experiment with different strategies before removing the free newspapers from the street.

“We need to get more waste receptacles on Somerset Street so people have a place to put the newspapers once they’re finished reading it,” says Holmes. “I think that’s the first step.”

Holmes says that newspaper clean-up is a municipal matter because the city rents the street space to the newspapers. Each news box must be licensed, at an annual cost of $72 and generates income for the city..

But some members of the newspaper community say that there is a greater issue at hand than lost money.

Marcus McCann, associate publisher for Capital Xtra, says that while the BIA’s goal of a clean street is admirable, it’s also important to have a number of voices available to the community.

“Having different voices in the public discourse make the country and democracy stronger at a very fundamental level.”

Dave Kruse,  publisher of Metro Ottawa, says it’s unfair for free newspapers to be targeted. He says that if the BIA wants to put a ban in place, it should apply to all papers.

“For us, it doesn’t mean a lot of papers in that area,” says Kruse. “But there must be a need. We wouldn’t have the boxes there if we didn’t have a need.”

He says that Metro can’t control littering but promotes recycling through daily advertisements.  

Metro Ottawa also has four people ride the transitway to pick up used newspapers. Metro, which distributes 60,000 free papers in Ottawa daily, is handed out at bus stops along the transitway each morning and also has newspaper boxes across the city.

Metro and OC Transpo are currently looking into a recycle bin deal that would mean disposals along the transit way. Metro Montreal lines all of the stops of the subway system with recycle bins to help with the cleanup of their paper.

Areas such as Chinatown are not located along Ottawa’s main bus lines. This means the area is currently left out the Metro clean up crew’s radar and papers are left on the ground until picked up by business owners or city staff.

Xiu says Chinatown is a high- traffic area and businesses will no longer  tolerate the mess created by the distribution of free newspapers.

“We take pride in our streets,” says Xiu. “We want to keep them clean. It shouldn’t be this difficult.”