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January 25, 2010 at 10:00 PM

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Seattle council talks about junk mail, but what for?

Posted by Emily Heffter

The Seattle City Council heard more than an hour of testimony Monday on the most controversial item on its agenda: junk mail, and whether to get rid of it.

Of course, one person's junk mail is another's direct mail. The owner of a local dry cleaners explained direct mail was the only way he could target his advertising to people who lived within a two-mille radius. Labor leaders pleaded for postal-carrier jobs they said could be lost. Printing-company representatives said putting restrictions on junk mail would make matters worse in the middle of a bad economy.

One by one, they complained the council's resolution supporting a do-not mail registry "reeks of bias" and "doesn't meet the standards of an undergrad term paper."

On the other side, a Wallingford woman said she and her neighbors hate the junk mail that litters their porches and fills their recycling bins. It puts their personal information at risk, said the woman, Ellie Rose: "I want a choice."

The environmental community supported the resolution because of all the extra trash created by unwanted mail.

The council, led by a somewhat flabbergasted President Richard Conlin, passed its resolution 8-1.

But here's the thing: No city registry will be created as a result of the vote. The council resolution urges the state Legislature to pass a bill, but no such bill is before the Legislature this session.

The only government that could pass a workable do-not-mail registry is the federal government, and the feds are not even considering it.

In short, the council's resolution, "urging the Washington State Legislature to establish a do-not-mail registry," does not do anything.

"It's only a resolution asking for the state to do this," Conlin said after the vote, adding that hearing people's concerns about job loss and impacts to their business made him think, "What are you talking about?"

No state has a do-not-mail registry. Supporters of the idea hope that if smaller governments adopt legislation, eventually Congress will have to pass a national registry similar to the do-not-call registry.

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Jim Brunner
Covers politics.

Keith Ervin
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Covers politics and state government from Olympia.

Emily Heffter
Covers local government.

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Lynn Thompson
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Bob Young
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