Guest opinion by Leah EV Ireland: The recent front page photo of the Bloomsbury Bookstore newsstand being hauled away marks the decline and fall of Ashland and America.

The recent front page photo of the Bloomsbury Bookstore newsstand being hauled away marks the decline and fall of Ashland and America. Is it possible that our cities officials really think our newsstands were "unsightly?" Did the city of Ashland actually pay someone to decide that newspapers be taken off our streets to make them pretty?

Doesn't the chamber, city or council know that newspaper stands are magnificent? The kind of tourists we attract like the Tidings and the New York Times, and the local free press? Removing newsstands is like bulldozing the library because we need tourist parking.

We won the revolution because we had a variety of newspapers and free publications when England was still nailing proclamations to trees and only the elite could read. The rise of fascism in every country is always equal to lack of an available free press.

The newspaper is the best place to go with an injustice. A good paper finds the stories no other public service does. If you were in a fight for what is right, would you rather have city government or the newspaper behind you? Did those who decided against newspapers for us have any educated idea of what they were doing?

To charge money for struggling newspapers to be on public streets is un-American. The decline of newspapers isn't because technology has replaced them, but because big money makes them about profit instead of the public good. Papers will change in form, but they will never be replaced as the foundation of democracy.

This will give Fox News another laugh at us: "The town that couldn't decide if naked men should walk near schools removes newsstands as ugly." Is the city aware that Ashland is a place where literacy, art, ideas and a respect for words bring more than 100 million into the Valley each year?

The Founding Fathers subsidized the press, it was mentioned in the Constitution, it is guaranteed to all as the only power against a corruption. This local paper is the only thing that keeps us a community and real town. Without it we are just a suburb of Medford. Aren't there some things more valuable than tourism?

The Supreme Court destroyed campaign finance reform by giving corporations the power to own elections. Where were the big city headlines? How can we conveniently read about it at length? Where is the great privilege of reviewing headlines? Journalists and civilians die everyday for a free press. We remove it as litter.

This plan to remove the press from the streets begins at the Post Office. The old newsstand that was like those in Paris was replaced by a plastic turquoise thing that looks like it belongs on a playground. It has once free paper in it. That's our city at work. And yet a freely available press is what our service men and women have died for in every war we have fought. Do we really want Main Street as Neverland?

Leah EV Ireland is a local writer who has lived in Ashland for 30 years. She can be reached at leahireland@aol.com.