EDITORIAL: News racks avoid setback

Too often, elected officials have their minds made up about a particular issue before they get a chance to vote on it. And the work government staff puts into recommending and drafting a bill or ordinance can create a climate that favors approval regardless of the public’s concerns.

That didn’t happen this week at the Clark County Government Center. The County Commission took no action Tuesday on a proposal to ban news racks from the Strip, despite the government’s considerable investment in studying and relieving pedestrian congestion within the resort corridor. It was a good decision.

The proposal would have cleared hundreds of racks from the Strip and restricted them to cross streets, well back from Las Vegas Boulevard, ruining the businesses that own them in the process. The news racks at issue (some of which contain adult content) provide information visitors want. If there were no demand for the publications, they wouldn’t exist in the first place.

More troubling were the First Amendment ramifications of the plan. Removing an entire mode of communication from such a huge area for the cause of clearing obstacles was a drastic move. A ban would strike a blow to protected expression. News rack companies rightly were prepared to sue if the ban were approved.

Instead, the commission decided to avert costly litigation — and a case the government was nearly certain to lose — to allow more time for a more cooperative solution. Perhaps some of the racks can be moved to places that won’t cause pedestrian choke points. The news racks were not a crisis. Allowing businesses to be part of the solution was the better call. Bravo to the commission for not rushing to the wrong resolution.

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