The Downtown Victoria Business Association has a new plan for what to do with the newspaper boxes on the city’s sidewalks.
Last month, the City of Victoria considered (and eventually deferred) a motion to outright remove newspaper boxes from the downtown core at the request of the DVBA.
But in a letter sent to council on August 31, the organization outlines a plan that would see some newspaper boxes remain, but most be removed.
“Since that initial letter I have met with several of the publishers of the various publications that use these boxes as part of their distribution network,” writes Jeff Bray, Executive Director of the DVBA.
Through these meetings, Bray says that Black Press Media — a publishing group that owns a number of publications including Victoria News and Saanich News — has joined the DVBA as an associate member.
Together, the publishing group and the DVBA will maintain the 10 boxes operated by Black Press on public property in the area. The media company will maintain the newspaper boxes, while the DVBA will remove graffiti as they emerge.
Meanwhile 30 other boxes in the downtown region have been identified for immediate removal, the cost for which will be covered by the DVBA’s Clean & Safe budget.
According to this letter, the DVBA plans to take action right away, but it is unclear whether they first need approval from the city or the businesses that own the newspaper boxes slated for removal.
Kate Korte, Editor-in-Chief of the University of Victoria’s independent student newspaper, The Martlet, says she was left out of consultations entirely.
“I’d spoken at the previous council meeting and Mayor Helps said I would be involved in discussions moving forward and I reached out to Jeff Bray prior to speaking at the council meeting. I hadn’t heard from him and then I was informed [through media requests] this morning about this plan,” said Korte in a phone interview with Victoria Buzz.
The original motion that was brought forth as a result of a letter from the DVBA talked about the need to remove newspaper boxes that stand empty or are filled with garbage due to widespread use of the internet and the presence of libraries.
It added that newspaper companies have been placing these boxes in public spaces without paying a license fee and thereby profit off of city space, whereas small business owners are required to pay a fee for sandwich boards and have to have a licence.
“We are an independent nonprofit outlet and we do not make a profit off of these boxes. But we pay our distribution staff so these boxes keep [one] part time employee and four contracted employees employed,” added Korte.
The Martlet owns around seven newspaper boxes in the downtown area, and Korte says she has not been told by the DVBA whether any of them are among the 30 slated for removal.
Korte adds that she is wholly in favour of the proposed plan to have publications be responsible for the upkeep of newspaper boxes.
“I would just appreciate it if The Martlet could be included right beside Black Press.”
The DVBA has not responded to a request for comment by Victoria Buzz in time for publication.