Pole position

Telephone pole clean-up

Some of the 100s of show flyers collected by city officials.

Some of the 100s of show flyers collected by city officials.

Last week, city of Reno code enforcement officers removed nearly 1,000 flyers and posters, advertisements and handbills from Reno telephone poles, signal poles, signal boxes and streetlights.

While some of the flyers were “we buy homes” or “avoid foreclosure” advertisements, the vast majority were promotional posters for concerts and other events in clubs and bars around Reno.

“We did it this way so that we could go ahead and document the flyers,” said Joseph Henry, senior code enforcement officer for the city of Reno. “Find out the businesses that were actually doing it, and then send them basically a courtesy letter telling them that it is against Reno municipal code to do that, and that they need to find different ways to advertise.”

Henry clarified that though it’s a municipal code violation to post flyers in the public right-of-way, it’s not a code violation to post flyers in private businesses, like bars, restaurants and coffee shops.

“You can do that at any private property,” said Henry. “It’s just a matter of asking permission from the property owner.”

Many of the flyers that the officers removed had layers and layers of other flyers and posters beneath them. Some of the flyers were promoting events from nearly two years ago. Henry mentioned a telephone pole across from the University of Nevada, Reno, near the intersection of Center and Ninth streets, that was especially buried.

“That poll has more staples and nails and tacks in it than you could buy in a hardware store,” he said.

“I totally see the city’s point,” says Dean Hanson, general manager of the Knitting Factory, a new downtown music venue that Henry singled out as a local business with a major telephone poll promotion presence.

“On the other hand, they have to be a little lenient about enforcing this policy—at least initially,” said Hanson.

Hanson said the flyers promoting Knitting Factory events were posted by outside promoters, and he sent out an email explaining the policy to the show promoters.

But both Hanson and Henry said the city and the venues have been cordial with one another about this process.

“The businesses we’ve contacted have been very responsive,” said Henry.

“The city has been extremely reasonable with us,” said Hanson. “This is just another example of that. The Reno police, the fire department, the city of Reno have welcomed us with open arms.”

City of Reno code enforcement manager Alex Woodley, in a press release about the clean-up effort, described the build-up of posters and flyers as “not only a visual blight but a public nuisance.”

The city views the issue as a clean-up effort, not a censorship issue.

“It’s advertising,” says Henry. “It’s not a First Amendment right. Commercial speech is different than private speech. … We try not to take down the lost-dog flyers.”