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Plainville Up in Arms!

The latest in Fliergate. This from Wicked Local:

The Journal has started distributing unsolicited ad fliers to people, throwing them in driveways and in yards, prompting some towns to threaten huge fines for littering.

Selectmen discussed the matter at their meeting yesterday.

“In the drive over here, I saw 20 or 25 of these orange ad things all over the place,” said Selectman Robert Fennessy. “They were in the storm drains, everywhere.”

Fennessy said that his concern is that the ads are coming to people who have not ordered them.

“I don’t mind it in the mail so much,” he said. “But I don’t want it all over my yard, where it can get stuck in my snow blower or clog up the drains.”

Fernandes said that Attleboro threatened to slap a $5,500 fine on the Journal for every flier, but the Journal said that the fliers count as journalism, and are therefore protected by the First Amendment.

“They’re not newspapers,” Fennessy said. “They’re a glorified collection of ads.”

Fernandes said North Attleboro is also unhappy with the fliers, but when he called the Journal, he was told test cases had already determined the fliers are protected by the Constitution.

“Attleboro has withdrawn its threat,” Fernandes said. “But they have a new strategy.”

Fernandes said Attleboro is considering a new bylaw allowing the fliers as protected speech, but if they aren’t picked up by the homeowner within five days, then it becomes apparent they don’t want the fliers.

“Then it becomes the Journal’s responsibility to come and pick them back up,” Fernandes said. “Or they can face that steep fine.”

Fennessy said the best course of action for people in towns like Plainville and North Attleboro might be to just call the companies that advertise in the new fliers.

“Follow the money,” Fernandes said. “Tell them, ‘I’m never going to buy your sneakers again,’ or whatever it may be.”

Fernandes also released the special phone number the Journal has set up for calls regarding the flier. He said people can call 401-277-7602 and request the flier not be delivered to them. But he has had reports that doesn’t always work.

“I think the methodology is, driveway, paper, driveway, paper,” he said. “I don’t think the delivery man is going to stop at 4 a.m. and remember whose house doesn’t want one.”

Plainville and North Attleboro could follow Attleboro’s plan if it works, but it would take longer. Attleboro’s City Council can enact bylaws quickly, while the smaller towns need to wait for Town Meeting to roll around.

Selectman Rob Rose said calling advertisers is a good strategy because the flier is bad publicity, but Fennessy said he isn’t sure it has to stop there.

“This could be in violation of trespassing laws,” he said. “They can’t just drive by and throw this crap into your driveway.”

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