At the June 8 City Council meeting, counselors once again discussed ways to handle unsolicited midweek advertising circulars from the Statesman Journal, Salem’s daily newspaper. The Statesman Journal delivers these ads in plastic newspaper sleeves by tossing them in the yards of both subscribers and those who do not subscribe.
The topic has reappeared in City Council every six month since the conversation about it began in 2011.
According to a City report that most recently began the session, in the last six months the newspaper has received 420 requests for a halt to the materials; 42 of them from people who continued to receive them afterwards. The paper says it receives about 20 calls a week asking for the litter to stop.
Discussions at previous council meetings centered on people who’d called the paper numerous times to cancel the ad delivery and/or their subscriptions but “couldn’t get through” to Statesman Journal staff, said Ward 1 Councilor Chuck Bennett. Citing improvement in the newspaper’s behavior, Bennett asked for the discussion to be put off once again, to November.
“I realize this is gone on for a lot of time,” Bennett said, “but as we can see our friends at the Statesman Journal have a rocky road on this.” Saying that the paper’s telephones now seemed to be working correctly, Bennett wanted to defer action another half year, saying, “I’d like to keep track of this… I think this [repeatedly postponing the discussion rather than taking action] has worked well with them, keep them on their toes… It sure has cleaned up my neighborhood. This was way out of control several years ago, and it [the City’s revisiting the subject] has helped.”
Ward 6 Councilor Steve McCoid challenged Bennett’s approach and urged immediate action, saying, “I’m not sure what keeping track of the issue and dealing with the issue have to do with keeping this alive another six months.”
Bennett replied by likening the postponement of action to the “Sword of Damocles” a classical reference to the threat of imminent and ever-present peril, and suggested how knowing they’d be discussed in Council again in 6-months might keep the newspaper “on their toes.”
“They say this is quite important to their business,” Bennett said, ‘[and] I’m not prepared to put that part of their business out of business.”
Bennett added that he continues to hear from constituents who complain to him about the circulars delivered by Statesman Journal staff “where they drive down the street in a pickup and just throw it in the front yard indiscriminately.” Bennett said this has happened to him himself twice “in the last year.”
“We don’t always have to drop the sword,” he said. “You can sometimes just leave it hanging.”
The council voted to follow Bennett’s suggestion and put the matter off until November, with a single “nay” vote from McCoid. McCoid said he thought the matter reminded him more of Sisyphus, the mythological Greek condemned to roll a bolder uphill, and watch it roll back down for all eternity.