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Ridgewood Mayor Wants To Trash Plastic Bags Stuffed With Ads

Mayor: 'This Really Isn't A Matter Of Free Speech'

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RIDGEWOOD, N.J. (CBSNewYork) – Officials in one New Jersey village are seeking a ban on those plastic bags filled with coupons and store circulars that are tossed on residents’ driveways and front lawns.

As WCBS 880’s Sean Adams reported, one man’s ad is another person’s trash.

The mayor of Ridgewood, N.J. said he wants to outlaw the unsolicited ad bags, saying they’re litter.

“This really isn’t a matter of free speech. In our minds, it’s a matter of personal property and it’s a matter of public safety,” Mayor Paul Aronsohn told Adams. “You could be away from your home, you could be on vacation, they throw these advertisements on your front lawn. And if they’re not picked up, that’s a sure sign to someone thinking about possibly breaking into your home.”

He added the ad dump is a burden on village recycling.

“In no other instance can you think of it when the law permits you to throw something on someone else’s front lawn. If this went through the mail, it would be a whole different issue,” said Aronsohn. “A lot of times, they’re non-descript. It doesn’t say who it’s coming from and they just appear and it’s incumbent upon us to pick it up and throw it away.”

Residents seem to be in favor of a potential ban.

“I have to say yes because I just dump it. I don’t look at it,” one homeowner told Adams. “Pick it up and dump it.”

The mayor said it would be OK if the ads came in the mail, but said no one should have the right to just dump whatever they want on your private property.

The bags have been bleeding ink onto Deputy Mayor Albert Pucciarelli’s lawn, CBS 2’s Amy Dardashtian reported.

“It looked like we were celebrating the return of the moonwalkers or something,” he said.

Pucciarelli told CBS 2 that the ads are a form of trespassing and are hiking up recycling costs. He wants them banned.

“These materials should not be delivered unless residents consent to their delivery,” he said.

Commercial advertisers are protected under the constitution.

“The Supreme Court has held that it’s entitled to First Amendment protection,” explained lawyer Leon Friedman.

Friedman said that just like “do not call lists” individuals can opt out.

“It’s an individual right of privacy which you can assert when you want to,” Friedman said.

The village attorney is looking into whether there’s a question of free speech that could derail the ban proposal, Adams reported.

Residents interested in stopping commercial mailings can go to their local post office and pick up a form 1500 also known as a prohibitionary order. Residents can list companies that they do not want to receive mail from, businesses that violate the order could face hefty fines.

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