Kingston Council to consider amending bylaw to alter newspaper deliveries

Improperly delivered newspapers can cause problems for residents and the environment, which is why one Kingston councillor is aiming to curtail the improper delivery of papers to those who haven’t subscribed for the delivery in the first place. Photo by Dan Keck.

The days when a kid on a bike tossed a newspaper on the front porch of each house seem long gone locally, as Kingston area residents have grown increasingly familiar with free weekly editions ending up blowing in the wind, stuck to fences in local parks, or turned into veritable papier-mâché by the rain.

It is for this reason that Lakeside District Councillor Wendy Stephen has crafted a new motion set to go before Kingston City Council at its next meeting on Tuesday, Jul. 9, 2024.

“The issue of unwanted newspaper deliveries has been an ongoing issue in Kingston for years,” Stephen told Kingstonist, pointing to a post and thread in a Facebook group from January 2024, which garnered over 50 comments, as well as a post and thread on the subject on Reddit with more than 40 comments, which was posted in early 2023.

“I have had several email exchanges with unhappy residents who have tried opting out of newspaper delivery and feel powerless to make them stop. The other councillors that I have spoken with so far have expressed that they have also had complaints from constituents. Some folks have successfully had their deliveries stopped, only to have them resume again the following week. It’s incredibly frustrating for a lot of people,” Stephen explained of the catalyst for her motion.

“I believe that independent news media, and in particular, local news, is critical to democracy. An informed and engaged community is important, to be sure. That said, if the manner in which papers are delivered enrages people, it is unlikely they will choose to then read the paper. Many people report throwing them directly into the recycling.”

According to Stephen, City of Kingston staff reported to her that, after a preliminary search, they found other municipalities have bylaws in place that are similar to the one she’s proposing, which regulate the way newspapers are delivered.

Stephen gave notice of the new motion at the most recent meeting of Council on Tuesday, Jun. 18, 2024, just as the meeting was drawing to a close. Stephen rose to read the new motion, which has been seconded by Trillium District Councillor Jimmy Hassan.

A motion that goes before Council consists of “whereas clauses,” which give the reasons for the motion, along with resolutions, which are directions that should be carried out by Council and/or City staff if the motion passes without amendment (councillors can move to amend motions by adding to or removing some of the text that makes up a motion).

Stephen’s new motion consists of five whereas clauses and includes two resolutions, all aimed at curbing the unwanted papers that often end up littering the curbs of Kingston — from the downtown core to the rural areas of Countryside, Pittsburgh, Loyalist-Cataraqui, and Collins-Bayridge districts.

Stephen’s motion first cites the fact that “many residents in the city of Kingston receive unwanted weekly newspaper deliveries that are thrown onto lawns, driveways, laneways, and boulevards,” and then posits that “the improper delivery of newspapers creates widespread litter, becomes a nuisance when newspapers are scattered by wind, rain or other elements, and damages private and public infrastructure when newspapers become caught in snow blowing devices or enter into or clog drains and drainage facilities.”

The motion goes on to reason that “the improper delivery of newspapers also creates a hazard for individuals who are elderly or who experience mobility challenges and cannot readily retrieve newspapers thrown onto lawns, driveways, laneways and boulevards.” It further states that “the accumulation of improperly delivered newspapers on a private property creates a safety concern, as it sends a signal that the resident is not at home, potentially increasing the risks of burglary or robbery.”

Finally, the motion notes an issue that is far more common than some might think: “many residents have tried unsuccessfully to opt out of receiving unwanted weekly newspaper publications.”

Indeed, in full disclosure, Kingstonist receives dozens of inquiries from residents each year – sometimes a handful in a week – about how to cancel the delivery of papers to their homes. This despite Kingstonist being an online publication which does not consist of any printed publications.

In terms of the action Stephen suggests, the motion seeks to have Council direct City staff to “prepare an amendment to the city’s Community Standards Bylaw that requires distributors to deliver newspaper to a door, mail slot, or other receptacle on the property, such as a mailbox” and that City staff present the amended bylaw to Council by the end of the third quarter (Q3) of 2024. Lastly, the motion asks that the City Clerk be “directed to send a copy of this motion to the newspaper publications that provide delivery within the limits of the City of Kingston.”

Speaking with Kingstonist, Stephen underscored that her proposal is not intended to limit residents’ access to news or the papers that they want to receive, but rather emphasize residents’ ability to choose what they receive.

“This motion is solely focused on the manner in which papers are delivered. It will be interesting to consider how this could affect people’s ability to opt out of deliveries if they so choose. Nowadays, we are able to unsubscribe from unwanted emails. It seems entirely reasonable to me that we should be able to unsubscribe from unwanted newspaper deliveries,” she said.

“When newspapers are delivered directly to a home, people then have the option of posting a sign to say ‘no thank you.’ With this proximity comes an ability to communicate, respectfully, with the delivery person. But when papers are chucked out of a moving vehicle, there is no way to post a sign or make a request.”

As noted, Stephen’s new motion will be presented to Kingston City Council at its next meeting, which takes place on Tuesday, Jul. 9, 2024, beginning at 7 p.m. Residents can attend the meeting at Kingston City Hall (216 Ontario Street) in Council Chambers (second floor), or watch it live on the Kingston City Council YouTube channel.

Editor’s note: The original headline on this article, ‘Kingston Council to consider amending bylaw to end unwanted paper deliveries,’ was changed after publication to avoid any misunderstanding it might create. The bylaw amendment will not “end” paper deliveries, but rather alter the ways in which papers are delivered. Kingstonist apologizes for any confusion.

4 thoughts on “Kingston Council to consider amending bylaw to alter newspaper deliveries

  • Simply as additional information, and as I live in an apartment-style condominium I have never seen how such weekly papers are delivered in the City: During our decades of rural living, such newspapers were delivered enclosed in vinyl bags (pink or blue) which could be recycled.

  • Newspapers used to be part of a daily routine, where people got their news and learned about the world from a physical roll of paper (twice a day at one time, for anyone who still remembers evening papers). Now they can’t even give newspapers away, and they’re regarded as literal trash. How times change. And how weirdly fitting to read about this from an online newsletter!

  • This is a tempest in a teapot. The number of unwanted newspapers and paper ad flyers has been dwindling for decades as ads migrate to digital social media. This shift will continue on its own and soon, be gone. The far more pressing issue involves finding ways to support ethical news and editorial content within the news outlets themselves.

  • It is a thankless job that pays very poorly. The people who don’t want it delivered have their address written in tiny print on top of the stack of papers, I suspect high turnover of people willing to do the job is why people get papers they don’t want.

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