The city of Cleveland Heights, through “focused citizen pressure” and the work of law director Jim Juliano, has negotiated mail delivery of the Plain Dealer’s Shop Greater Cleveland advertising flyers, "ShopCLE."
The flyers, which are sheathed in a translucent plastic bag and are distributed on Wednesdays to 645,000 households in the region, had been previously delivered by van — “drive-by delivery,” in the vernacular of disgruntled residents who complained that the advertisements were carelessly tossed into driveways and streets, violating the suburb’s littering ordinance.
“We’re very happy that there was a resolution,” said law director Jim Juliano, who negotiated with Plain Dealer attorney David Marburger in the matter. “The flyers certainly did make a mess, and, at least for our purposes, we’re glad to have the USPS deliver them in the 44118 zip code.”
Juliano announced the new arrangement at the Cleveland Heights City Council meeting Monday night.
Resident Bob Rosenbaum, who co-chairs the Heights Observer advisory committee, started the “ShopCLE: Stop Littering Our Streets” Facebook page in early November. He told Scene he started the page because he was angry. He intended to collect information and evidence to show the Plain Dealer the widespread nature of the complaints. Along with the Cleveland Heights Nextdoor social network, the page became a hub for resident ire against “haphazard distribution” and the forces behind it.
Rosenbaum said when residents’ complaints weren’t being adequately addressed, he contacted ShopCLE advertisers by mail to alert them of the situation.
“I told them not only that their advertising wasn’t being seen,” Rosenbaum said, “but that it was creating a nuisance in our community. I did that just to get the attention of the Plain Dealer, and it seemed to work.”
Heinen’s CEO John Heinen responded to Rosenbaum — the only advertiser to do so — and reached out to the PD. (Correction: Heinen's CEO and co-owner is Jeff Heinen, not John).
Rosenbaum said that both the Plain Dealer’s depot manager Cathy McBride (who’s in charge of ShopCLE distribution), and Matt Zaborksy, head of the company subcontracted for delivery locally, were polite and responsive to resident concerns. He suspects there was simply a misunderstanding. The first response to residents, he said, was an advisement that they “opt-out.”
“This was not about getting papers we don’t want,” Rosenbaum said. “This was about dumping in our neighborhood. Personally, I think it’s a dumb product. If they wanna put out a cynical product that nobody wants, that’s their business. I just don’t want them turning my neighborhood into a dump.”
Cleveland Heights Law Director Jim Juliano told Scene that, to the best of his knowledge, the mail delivery was only for the 44118 zip code. ShopCLE began as a mailed product — there were too many addresses to do in-person delivery at the start — but Cathy McBride has not yet responded to questions regarding future delivery plans.
The Village of Newburgh Heights, however, looks like it will also be receiving mailed ShopCLEs beginning next week. Mayor Trevor Elkins, who was unavailable for comment by phone, posted to his personal Facebook page Monday that his appeals to the PD had been successful.
“I informed [Cathy McBride] this morning their driver would be cited for littering and they insisted Reddy v. Plain Dealer protected their right to engage in this activity,” he wrote.
Reddy v. Plain Dealer was a 2013 case in which the Ohio Court of Appeals upheld the County Court of Common Pleas’
opinion that the PD was not trespassing when it delivered a free publication to private property when it was not explicitly told it couldn’t.
“They threatened to sue me and the village,” wrote Elkins. “I encouraged her to do so, I'd be happy to make the argument in front of the Court of Common Pleas as Reddy does not apply in this circumstance. At about 5:30 I received a call stating the deliveries would return to the mailbox next week.”
Chris Chimes, the PD’s director of planning and project management, told Scene via email that they took their responsibility to the community “very seriously.”
“We have implemented many procedures to honor the requests of those who do not wish to receive ShopCLE,” he wrote. “We work closely with the independent distributor on delivery standards, and constantly seek to improve the quality of delivery.”