PPNA Happenings

Happenings, history and news of the Prospect Park Neighborhood and Ypsilanti

Ypsilanti’s Biggest Litter Bug

Posted by ppna on February 24, 2008

Trusty Getto pointed out that the Supreme Court has defended the Right of Free Speech over the rights of property owners and he is correct. Case after case has been decided where the right to deliver unsolicited writings (pamphlets, newspapers, etc.) outweigh the minor inconvenience of a property owner to clean up the mess. Even though we have city ordinances against this litter we would never be able to enforce them without a legal challenge that we would lose. Read the Comments section for analysis.

It’s a nice sunny day here in Ypsilanti and with the sun comes the snow melt and with the snow melt comes the hidden treasures and trash. Of course I’m talking about “The Ypsilanti Community News” thrown on our sidewalks, driveways and lawns week after week. I’m not a fan of having this trash thrown on my lawn or around my neighborhood and I’d like it to stop. The ‘Community News’ is a terrible waste of resources which we as a city are forced to pay for the cleanup either with waste fees if it is thrown in the garbage or recycling fees if its recycled not to mention all of the other environmentally unfriendly issues that arise with production and transport.
I have called the A2 news and asked them not to throw it at my house and it was stopped for awhile but eventually those bags came back. I suppose it’s not such a hardship for me to pick up the ‘Community News’ throw the bag away and put the paper in the recycling bin but it is a hardship for the owners of the many vacant houses in my neighborhood or the neighbors that have to attend to the trash next-door.
Finally, What the A2 News is doing is ILLEGAL in a number of ways, It is Illegal for the A2 news to have it thrown in your yard, It is illegal for the carrier to throw it from a vehicle and finally if you don’t pick it up in a timely manner you are acting illegally. I don’t like situations where another persons actions force you to act or you become a criminal (this is the same as the graffiti code) it doesn’t seem fair especially when it is a commercial enterprise that the city is allowing to act illegally.
Definitions for references below.
Newspaper means any periodical of general circulation published at least quarterly and which contains not more than 85 percent advertising.
*** The Community News packet is not considered a newspaper under the codes of Ypsilanti. The community News packet has well more than the liberal 85 percent advertising.
Litter means all rubbish, refuse, waste material, garbage, offal, paper, glass, cans, bottles, trash, wrecked, scrapped or abandoned vehicles, rags, scrap metal, scrap plumbing parts; broken and/or used indoor appliances, furniture, overstuffed furniture when not fully enclosed in a structure; or parts of any of the foregoing or similar property. Furniture designed and manufactured as outdoor furniture is excluded as “litter” so long as it is in good condition.
*** The community news does fit the code as litter.
Handbill means any printed or written matter, any sample, dodger, circular, leaflet, pamphlet, paper, booklet or other type of written or printed matter, except a newspaper, a utility company notice, a legal notice, a traffic citation or a business card having an area smaller than three square inches.
*** The Community News could also be known as a Handbill
Sec. 42-72. Litter thrown by persons in vehicles.
No person shall throw litter from a vehicle.
(Code 1983, § 9.36)
Cross references: Traffic and vehicles, ch. 102.
***The Community News is definetly paper and in my neighborhood it is thrown from a vehicle making the driver susceptible to a traffic violation.
Sec. 42-74. Maintenance of exterior of premises.
The owner or person in control of any private property shall, at all times, maintain the exterior of the premises free of all litter; provided, however, that this section shall not prohibit the storage of litter in private receptacles for collection, and further shall not prohibit any compost pile provided such compost pile is not larger than reasonably necessary to supply the needs of the property served, and further provided that such compost pile is not of such a nature as to spread or harbor disease, emit unpleasant odors or harmful gas, or attract rodents, vermin or other disease-carrying pests, animals, or insects, provided that the presence of earth worms in a compost pile shall not constitute a nuisance.
(Code 1983, § 9.38)

*** The above code tells property owners that they receive ownership of the litter on their property and that they have to clean up the litter on their property.

Sec. 42-75. Sidewalks and alleys to be kept free of litter.

Persons owning or occupying property within the city shall keep the sidewalks and alleys adjacent to the property free of litter.
(Code 1983, § 9.39)
Sec. 42-76. Distribution of commercial and noncommercial handbills–In public places.

No person shall throw or deposit any commercial or noncommercial handbill in or upon any sidewalk, street or other public place within the city, with the exception of public kiosks or other places designated by the city council by resolution. No person shall hand out or distribute or sell any commercial handbill in any public place; provided, that it shall not be unlawful on any sidewalk, street or other public place within the city for any person to hand out or distribute, without charge to the receiver thereof, any noncommercial handbill to any person willing to accept it.
(Code 1983, § 9.42)
Cross references: Businesses, ch. 22.
Sec. 42-78. Same–Uninhabited or vacant premises.

No person shall throw or deposit any commercial or noncommercial handbill in or upon any private premises which are temporarily or continuously uninhabited or vacant.
(Code 1983, § 9.44)
*** The photo above shows Community News Handbills/Litter in front of a vacant house on the city side of the sidewalk.

Sec. 42-80. Same–In inhabited private premises.

(a) No person shall throw, deposit or distribute any commercial handbill in or upon private premises which are inhabited, except by handing or transmitting any such handbill directly to the owner, occupant or other person then present in or upon such private premises; provided, that in case of inhabited private premises which are not posted, as provided in this division, such person, unless requested by anyone upon such premises not to do so, may place or deposit any such handbill in or upon such inhabited private premises, if such handbill is so placed or deposited as to secure or prevent such handbill is so placed or deposited as to secure or prevent such handbill from being blown or drifted about such premises or sidewalks, streets or other public places and except that mailboxes may not be so used when so prohibited by federal postal law or regulations.
(b) The provisions of this division shall not apply to the distribution of mail by the United States, nor to newspapers (as defined herein); except that newspapers shall be placed on private property in such a manner as to prevent their being carried or deposited by the elements upon any street, sidewalk or other public place or upon private property.
(Code 1983, § 9.46)

*** My guess is the Community News is following the passage that allow newspapers to be placed at private premises. They fail this exception in two ways; the first is the Community News doesn’t meet the requirement of a Newspaper and it is not placed in a manner to prevent it being carried upon the sidewalk (since they throw it to land where it may).

I hope our ordinance enforcement units will fine the A2 news or ask them to stop delivering the Community News. Of course, if you enjoy it you have every right to ask for it to be delivered. Those of us that don’t like receiving the A2 Community news shouldn’t have to ask for it to stop.


5 Responses to “Ypsilanti’s Biggest Litter Bug”

  1. The Constitution of the United States of America, Amendment No. 1, states:

    Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

    So, until the Constitution is amended, the best we can do keep calling or recycle. 😦

  2. ppna said


    I don’t think the Constitution allows the random throwing of trash into peoples lawns. Person to person contact is one thing, I love the Jehovah witnesses, but are constitutional rights violated when you are not allowed to throw your opinions onto peoples lawns? Trusty, are you saying that as long as people are peaceable they are allowed to assemble on your lawn?

    Personal property rights are an important value in the USA and are a lot different than public demonstration as the 1st amendment implies
    Comment edited I’m very willing to argue this point to the best of my ability (I had said fight this battle which was too strong a term and I don’t want to imply any physical confrontation).


  3. Kurt: Despite my tough-guy reputation, I’m nowhere near stupid enough to fight you. You would most certainly kick my sorry ass from here to Ann Arbor and back. Unless, of course, I could outrun you! 😉

    From the 1946 U.S. Supreme Court case of Marsh vs. State of Alabama (they make us read this stuff in law school):

    “When we balance the Constitutional rights of owners of property against those of the people to enjoy freedom of press and religion, as we must here, we remain mindful of the fact that the latter occupy a preferred position. As we have stated before, the right to exercise the liberties safeguarded by the First Amendment ‘lies at the foundation of free government by free men’ and we must in all cases ‘weigh the circumstances and appraise … the reasons … in support of the regulation of (those) rights.’ Schneider v. State, 308 U.S. 147, 161 , 60 S. Ct. 146, 151. In our view the circumstance that the property rights to the premises where the deprivation of liberty, here involved, took place, were held by others than the public, is not sufficient to justify the State’s permitting a corporation to govern a community of citizens so as to restrict their fundamental liberties and the enforcement of such restraint by the application of a State statute. Insofar as the State has attempted to impose criminal punishment on appellant for undertaking to distribute religious literature in a company town, its action cannot stand. The case is reversed and the cause remanded for further proceedings not inconsistent with this opinion.”

    That case involved a company-owned town that wanted to prevent private individuals from distributing religious literature on the private property of the corporation. The Supreme Court wouldn’t allow the company to ban the distribution on the basis of private property rights. Since the 1st Amendment guarantees both freedom of religion and the freedom of press, the analysis would probably be the same with regard to the dissemination of newspapers.

    There’s another Supreme Court Case from that era, Breard v City of Alexandria (1951), in which a city ordinance banning door-to-door solicitations was upheld. Breard was cited in a lower court case in New York more recently in 1996 to stop an unwanted newspaper from being delivered. However, I think the New York case (Kenneth Tillman v Distribution Systems of America) isn’t reasoned all that well and tends to contradict the reasoning of Marsh. If challenged, I would expect the Marsh case to control, as it involves the actual delivery of the printed literature and not merely a solicitation to subscribe to printed literature. The two issues seem different enough to distinguish their applicability.

    That said, I’m not advocating either position. All I’m saying is it’s a bit more of an open question than your cut-and-dried view seems to acknowledge. As Marsh suggests above, the Supreme Court appears to prioritize freedom of press and religion ahead of private property rights. When balancing conflicting constitutional rights, our courts tend to consider multiple perspectives, of which yours is important, but still one among many.

    What would be interesting is if City Council adopted an ordinance prohibiting the dissemination of printed literature in the absence of permission of the individual homeowner or property owner. Such an ordinance would would involve conflicts at many levels (religion, press, political speech, commerce, as well as the interplay of these issues between property owners and tenants, etc.). It would be interesting to see how that kind of constitutional analysis would play out.

  4. ppna said

    I would like to thank Trusty for setting the record straight. The Marsh case he cited set the precedent for Free Speech over Property Rights and that rule has held since 1946. Legally, I’m wrong and he is correct.

    I disagree with Trusty that the case of ‘Kenneth Tillman v Distribution Systems of America’ contradicts the Marsh ruling. There is a fine line between the two cases. The Tillman case rules that the government (in this case a court injunction) can force someone to stop soliciting once they have been asked by the homeowner to stop. The Marsh case rules that the government can’t impose rules to stop solicitation on their own.

    Through all this case law we end up with this conclusion —

    The City can’t create an ordinance to stop the ‘Ypsilanti Community News’ from being delivered (Marsh case) but if you call and tell them not to deliver it to your house they must stop (Tillman Case).

    I don’t agree with the ruling and I can’t believe it but I suppose in the big picture it is best to guarantee our Freedom of Speech no matter how much of a pain it is.

    Trusty stated
    What would be interesting is if City Council adopted an ordinance prohibiting the dissemination of printed literature in the absence of permission of the individual homeowner or property owner. Such an ordinance would would involve conflicts at many levels (religion, press, political speech, commerce, as well as the interplay of these issues between property owners and tenants, etc.). It would be interesting to see how that kind of constitutional analysis would play out.
    From the briefs I read today (quite a few) I think an ordinance requiring permission would fail under the same reasoning as in all the cases where an ordinance banned dissemination all together. It seems to me it would be considered a government road-block to free speech and we all know how much free speech is protected.

    If you want to read a Wyoming case which speaks exactly to my point and where the court upheld delivery of the paper.click here

  5. OK, here is a thought. What if a community passed a regulation saying the newspaper may not be thrown from a moving vehicle. Thus requiring that the driver stop the vehicle and get out to place the paper on the property or that the delivery person would have to walk to deliver the paper.

    Another idea would be to require that any newspaper so delivered to a residence or business must be placed in a newspaper box like what you see from AnnArbor.com on the westside of the county.

    (a img=”http://blog.mlive.com/annarbornews_impact/2009/07/medium_winklepony.JPG”>

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: