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City vows Olympics bylaws won't restrict newspapers

VANCOUVER - Political protests and newspaper distribution will be allowed in bubble zones around 2010 Winter Olympics venues from Jan. 1 to March 31, Vancouver’s Olympic operations director Paul Henderson told city council on Thursday.

But city council refused requests by several citizens, including 24 hours’ general manager Philip Tan, to amend an omnibus bylaw package that aims to prevent marketing activities by companies that aren’t Games sponsors.

Tan sought an amendment to explicitly protect media publications from anti-advertising legislation that restricts printed matter from being distributed or displayed.

“I’m concerned the city might face sponsorship pressures (for enforcement),” 24 hours’ general manager Philip Tan told council.

On Monday, Henderson told 24 hours the goal of the bylaws was to “reduce litter, reduce congestion, reduce commercialization of the streets.” He said staff was unable to write a bylaw that separated newspapers from commercial literature.

Vision Vancouver Coun. Geoff Meggs said during Thursday’s meeting that “that is a distinction the city can make pretty easily” without an amendment.

Meggs, however, successfully proposed an amendment to allow signs containing ideas within the venue bubble zones. Meggs move included seeking advice from civil libertarians on implementation of the bylaws.

The temporary bylaws passed 8-2 with only COPE Coun. David Cadman and Ellen Woodsworth objecting. They wanted the vote delayed until September so that council could consult the civil liberties advisory committee.

“You don’t adopt something and pass it and say now after the fact, please review it and tell us if it violates the Charter (of Rights and Freedoms),” Cadman said.

The sweeping bylaws allow road closures, amplified music until midnight, outdoor patios until 1 a.m., after hours deliveries and garbage removal, round-the-clock outdoor broadcasting. They mandate graffiti removal, ban unlicensed vending and displays of advertising. The measures also enable airport-style security checkpoints, including surveillance cameras, at the city’s two live sites.

Council also rubber-stamped $280,000 for the Olympic torch relay procession through Vancouver neighbourhoods, which climaxes with a Feb. 11 celebration at David Lam Park. The last two-hour ceremony of the cross-Canada relay is expected to draw 10,000 on the eve of the Games’ opening ceremony at B.C. Place Stadium.

Additional funds are being sought through federal and provincial grants. Ten city staffers will be chosen to carry the torch.

B.C. Civil Liberties Association representative Christopher Maughan unsuccessfully asked council to repudiate VANOC guidelines against political pamphleting and signage. A VANOC-issued manual tells host communities that pamphleting by politicians and displays of political signage are not wanted on the torch relay route.

“As the host city, Vancouver has a moral responsibility to refuse to enforce VANOC guidelines that are, on their face, unconstitutional,” Maughan said.

Bob Mackin reports for Vancouver 24 hours.

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