Tag Archives: Seattle Times

Judgment Day for City of Seattle Opt-out Folly

Since the start of its October, 2010 efforts to implement a required opt-out program, despite the industry’s already established program, we have criticized the elected leaders of the city of Seattle –

  • November, 2010“ …this really isn’t an environmental move by the City of Seattle. Instead, it has become a clear attempt at cost shift and a political stepping stone for some Council members…”
  • July, 2011: “ …Lost in Seattle: Hello. Print Yellow Pages Aren’t Your Problem..”
  • August, 2011“Seattle Green Efforts Come Up Way Short”
  • October, 2012“..Take that Seattle. In a decision, which has been expected for some time, the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals released a unanimous decision today which holds that under the First Amendment, Yellow Pages directories are “fully protected speech” and not “commercial speech.” The appeals court determined that print directories are entitled to the same standards under the First Amendment as newspapers, magazines, etc. Needless to say, this is a major win for the industry..”

Despite the obvious stupidity of this effort, the leaders keep on pushing this needless waste of taxpayer funds.  We’ll now The Seattle Times reports that the city has tentatively agreed to pay $500,000 to yellow-pages phone directory publishers in a settlement, rather than continuing the fight to appeal a ruling that the city violated the publishers’ free-speech rights,

Initially, a U.S. District Court judge ruled in favor of the city’s position.  But a three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit, generally a very left-leaning court, sided with the yellow-pages publishers, ruling that the phone books are protected, like other publications, by the First Amendment.

The Local Search Association has repeatedly fought that the city opt-out registry wasn’t necessary because the publishers and Association had their own fully functional opt-out systems. But, city leaders lead by City Councilmember Mike O’Brien insisted on forging ahead with an opt-out registry for “unwanted phone books” and charged a $100 fee on each of the three companies that distribute phone books in the city. It also charged the companies for every book delivered, levied a fine of $125 for deliveries to households that had opted out.  And, to add insult to injury, the law required the publishers to advertise the city’s opt-out service on the cover of the yellow pages.

A suit then filed by Local Search Association, the Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in October that phone directories are protected by the First Amendment and that Seattle’s law regulating distribution of the yellow-pages directories was unconstitutional.

Now judgment day has arrived for the city as they will now need to pay $500,000 of taxpayer money to the industry.  City Councilmember Mike O’Brien, still refuses to admit the futility of this effort and said he couldn’t comment on negotiations to settle the lawsuit because they were still ongoing. He said the settlement agreement could also decide “the future of Seattle’s yellow-pages opt-out system.”  Gee, you think so?

As you would expect some of the city’s finest are reacting online.  Here is one of the few blog comments I could print:  “..let’s SUE and FINE Yellow Pages for LITTERING. Shoot them on site for trespassing…”.  So much for the civility these same people preach to us about.

As we noted in October, 2010:

“…What a shame. It didn’t have to be this way. A working process was already up and running. But that wasn’t enough for the greenies. Someone in big business had to be punished no matter the costs or the impact to taxpayers…”

My only question is whether City Councilmember Mike O’Brien and the other 7 elected officials who voted for this effort (only one Councilmember voted against the ordinance) will now be held responsible for reaping the taxpayers.  Somehow, I doubt it.

Local Search Association Responds to Seattle Ordnance

If this post had a subtitle it would read:  “While Seattle City Council Wastes Taxpayer Money, Local Search Association Sets the Record Straight

The local media in Seattle, lead by the Seattle Times have announced the start of a new print phone directory opt-out ordnance and further reported grossly inaccurate facts (hello Times — Dex, Yellowbook and Superpages are NOT owned by the Association, they are members).  Fortunately, the Local Search Association (formerly Yellow Page Association) has released the following statement to set the record straight:

Duplication and waste, inefficiency, lack of privacy guarantees and an array of other concerns characterize Seattle’s Yellow Pages opt-out website according to the Local Search Association, which manages a nationwide, industry-sponsored telephone directory opt-out program already available to Seattle residents through the www.yellowpagesoptout.com program.

 “Seattle residents who believe that the city’s site will protect their privacy when removing themselves from yellow page delivery lists will be sadly mistaken,” said Neg Norton, president, Local Search Association. “We believe that the city’s redundant site is not necessary and is unfairly leading residents to believe it has spent the government’s time and the taxpayer’s money on something new, when this option has been available to residents all along via www.yellowpagesoptout.com.”

The official site, http://www.yellowpagesoptout.com, offers consumers a number of advantages including privacy protections that Seattle’s site does not provide, an easy to use interface, and the ability to stop delivery of both Yellow Pages and white pages phone books.

Comments on various blogs from supposed local residents have criticized the Association opt-out site because it asks for a phone number so publishers can verify future opt-out requests.  The comments show a puzzling trend from a select group of people who believe the publishers/Association are going to share that information with telemarketers.  Such comments are ridiculous as the industry already works with millions of telephone numbers each day with no privacy issues.  And why would it further irate a small group of people who choose not to receive their print products?  However, one cannot make the same claim about the city of Seattle.  Since they are obviously in a revenue grab by taxing publishers, the next logical step in their efforts to balance their budget would be to market the data they collect.

The press release from LSA goes on to question the overblown calculations of the ordinances chief cheerleader:

Councilmember Mike O’Brien and Seattle Public Utilities have also released statistics that greatly exaggerate the environmental impact of print directories, falsely implying that phone books create 100 pounds of unwanted paper each year per household. According to the city’s own estimates, the city annually recycles approximately 1,500 tons of phone books or less than 2 percent of total recyclables – not 17,500 tons as claimed.

“We are deeply concerned with the way the City of Seattle has exaggerated in its media effort the number of directories distributed within the city limits, suggesting a per/household pound estimate that is 1,200 percent above what their own research shows,” Norton said.

Gee, a government group using inflated numbers to further their cause.  Have we heard this before somewhere?  LSA continues in the release to explain why this new government site makes little sense:

Directory publishers remain committed to offering Seattle residents and consumers nationwide the ability to choose which directories they receive at www.yellowpagesoptout.com . Through proactive industry efforts, the amount of directory paper in the market has declined by nearly 35 percent since 2007.

Even as the City of Seattle has worked to reduce its environmental footprint, it has selected a model that only encourages waste by duplicating work that the industry has already done. The sustainable approach is a national one, where there is one standard website for consumers across the United States to stop delivery of directories. The benefits of the industry’s site include:

  • No burden to cities, taxpayers, or city government staff: Industry assumes all costs and staffing associated with development, maintenance and promotion of http://www.yellowpagesoptout.com .
  • Greater awareness: One official industry site will result in greater awareness for consumers across the country, amplifying the positive impact of the initiative.
  • Integration with publishers’ technology systems: The website will work seamlessly with the publishers’ systems; no third-party vendor has the same level of existing knowledge.
  • Library of directory covers provide better clarity of choice for the user: The website will include visuals that will make it easier for residents to identify the directories they wish to keep or stop.
  • Protected personal information: Residents using www.yellowpagesoptout.com can be confident that their personal information will only be shared with publishers for the purpose of customizing their directory delivery choices and not sold to third parties or used by city governments or their website vendors for marketing purposes. The city has made no such assurances for its opt-out program or website.

Wake up Seattle.  Your self-serving Council is spending your money on an ego ride it doesn’t have to be on.  You can do better, much better….