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Sandy • A push to protect children from viewing racy magazine covers quickly turned into a lengthy discussion by the Sandy City Council about how to better combat the effects of pornography within the city.
Three residents appeared before the Council on Tuesday night to urge city officials to come up with an option that would shield children from viewing magazines with what they said was inappropriate content in unavoidable areas.
The issue was brought to Adrianne Thygerson's attention by her 7-year-old son after walking through a department-store checkout line. He told her, "I hate magazines." This reaction kickstarted her research, prompted her to speak with store managers, other mothers, and eventually even to the office of Utah Senate President Wayne Niederhauser, R-Sandy, but to no avail.
Thygerson even compared the issue to Utah's Clean Air Act.
"We can't avoid it. They're right at the checkouts we go through. So, the Utah Clean Air Act was instituted to protect people from second-hand smoke and to protect minors. This is equally as destructive, if not more so, than what cigarettes being sold over the counter would be," Thygerson said.
In a blog post, Thygerson identified the offending magazine on a recent trip to the store as Cosmopolitan, writing that the cover "was not just inappropriate, it was pornographic."
She wrote that when she complained, the store manager told her her hands were tied to do anything about the magazine.
"Soft pornography is now commonplace just about every place," Thygerson added.
Members of the Council appeared to agree, and engaged in a lengthy discussion about what the city could legally do to protect children from being subjected to what they deem as possibly damaging images.
"I wholeheartedly support whatever we can do from a legal standpoint, but in our society today I question how much we can do. I think we can do a whole lot more on a social basis to apply positive pressure," Councilman Dennis Tenney said.
The Council turned to Sandy City attorney Walter Miller for legal guidance. Miller said that anything dealing with free speech would require careful attention and that the city would have a difficult time calling or considering Cosmopolitan magazine "pornographic."
Councilman Scott Cowdell was vocally supportive of Thygerson's and two other residents' efforts to protect their children and other Sandy youngsters.
"I don't know how much constitutional right children have under 18-years old," Cowdell said. "I think we can control a lot of their rights. I don't know that they have any rights, other than to be fed, clothed and to be taken care of. I don't know that they have the right of freedom of speech under 18."
As discussion moved from the simple issue of preventing children from seeing suggestive magazine covers. Members of the Council began suggesting solutions to the bigger issue of pornography addiction. Tenney said he wants to see the Council open up a forum for people to become better educated on the issue, while Councilman Chris McCandless suggested a subcommittee be formed to gather information and research. Councilman Stephen Smith mentioned using the city's relationship with developers to push retail tenants to place suggestive material on higher shelves.
Smith said he would like to see developers, "at least raise the issue with their major tenants and let them know that, at least in Sandy, that we're not happy with that particular part of their business and see if there isn't something they can do in their leases that could provide some help in that regard, whether it's incentive or disincentive."
Miller warned officials that they need to be careful in their interactions with businesses.
"If the city wants to encourage businesses not to display these [magazines], that's fine, but if they are threatening at all, implying a threat at all, then courts regard that as a prior restraint on free speech," Miller said.
The council ended the meeting with a request that City Communication Director Nicole Martin provide a future presentation on the issues raised.
Officials said they would be better equipped to act with better information because, according to Councilman Steve Fairbanks, "pornography, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder."