CLEVELAND, Ohio — The Downtown Cleveland Alliance removed 26 Cleveland Scene newspaper boxes from sidewalks and street corners in recent weeks without notifying managers at the alt-weekly.
Alliance spokeswoman Heather Holmes acknowledged Saturday that the organization’s workers — known as ambassadors — removed the boxes, reporting that several had tipped over on sidewalks and into the streets.
The ambassadors who took the boxes told their higher-ups that they were not sure who they needed to consult about removing them.
“These newsstands were toppled over either from people knocking them over or weather or snow plows,” Holmes said.
Cleveland Scene Editor Vince Grzegorek said he is “flabbergasted” that the Alliance would remove so many boxes and store them at their own facilities and not think to contact someone with the newspaper or its parent company, Euclid Media Group.
Grzegorek, who learned from other sources that the boxes had been removed, said that he finds it strange that so many boxes would topple over in such a short span of time given that all 26 were held down by bricks.
“They weigh something like 150 pounds so the idea that they would blow over is interesting,” he said. “I don’t know under what authority they had to take 26 boxes.”
He also noted that each edition of Scene contains several ways to contact the paper and its managers, including a mail address, phone numbers and email addresses. He said he doesn’t understand why the Alliance didn’t get in touch, if there’s an “epidemic” of Scene boxes littering sidewalks and streets,
Holmes admitted that the Alliance workers made a misstep by removing the boxes.
“There’s no question that this wasn’t the best route to go, no question at all,” she said. “They had no intention of violating anyone’s person or property, and they take great pride in keeping downtown sidewalks clean and safe to provide the best pedestrian experience possible.”
Holmes said that there is a city ordinance that requires that newspaper boxes be bolted down. However, the ordinance governing newspaper dispensers reads: “Newspaper dispensing devices shall be anchored to the sidewalk by a method approved by the Director of Capital Projects and shall not be cabled or chained or otherwise attached to any object or building except to any other newspaper dispensing devices.”
Holmes said that she didn’t know that the boxes were taken to the Alliance’s operations center at East 18th Street and St. Clair until Scene officials called Friday. Scene should have been notified when the first box was taken, she said.
The ordinance also says that any company considered in violation of city ordinances is supposed to receive notification of those violations through certified mail and is allowed seven days to respond to the complaint. Grzegorek and Scene Circulation Director Don Kriss said the paper received no notification.
The section of the ordinance that addresses the removal of newspaper boxes says that the company should have received notification by certified mail within two days of the removal of the first box.
Both Kriss and Grzegorek questioned why the Alliance would attempt to enforce a city ordinance. Kriss said the city of Cleveland’s Bureau of Sidewalks undertakes such enforcement.
“That’s who I called first when they were missing,” Kriss said. “…Usually they would call us. Like, when they had the (Republican National Convention), we had to remove them from the business district. I don’t know how the Alliance thought it could remove them.”
Alliance workers were seen downtown Saturday returning the newspaper boxes to their sidewalk locations.