In a move that can be seen as a victory for the Yellow Pages industry, the San Francisco board of supervisors decided to delay a vote on its contentious Yellow Pages opt-in ordinance, seeking a study from the city economist to determine if arguments about job loss and hardship for small businesses are valid. The report is due May 10, and its contents may help determine whether the industry’s victory is temporary.
The opt-in ordinance was proposed by board of supervisors president David Chiu, who has announced plans to run for mayor. He may have seen attacking phone book distribution as an easy pro-environment issue. The Yellow Pages industry organized small-business owners, unions representing directory employees and competing publishers to oppose the bill, even mounting a demonstration, which is the San Francisco version of fighting fire with fire.
At first, the demonstrations seemed only to stiffen Chiu’s spine. However, the delay and comments from some of council members suggest the claims that jobs are at risk have at least gotten the attention of supervisors.
In the end, the study may only delay a yes vote on the ordinance, but the industry has at least scored some points in its effort to fight the ordinance. Given his ambitions and the prestige he has invested in this ordinance, Chiu is likely to fight hard for passage. If support weakens, he may be forced to water down the ordinance so that he can win a vote and declare victory. Time will tell.
In an email this morning, Yellow Pages Association President Neg Norton said the industry is working to get small businesses more involved in the effort.
“We’ve begun a merchant outreach program this week in the key districts that will produce letters, videos and petitions as well as a phone bank program where concerned citizens can be patched through to their supervisor to express their opinions. We’ll also begin to gather data on the issues they’re likely to raise with us. It’s been an amazing effort by the coalition we’ve established and we’re making progress.”