Archive for Wednesday, July 6, 2005

Commissioners split on civility ordinances

Crackdown on camping rejected; panhandling, trespass measures OK’d

July 6, 2005


Downtown patrons concerned about aggressive panhandlers received some relief from city commissioners Tuesday night, but neighbors concerned about homeless camps along the Kansas River did not.

After an hour's worth of public comment that accused them both of unfairly prosecuting the homeless and not doing enough to protect neighborhoods from transients, city commissioners approved three "civility" ordinances but rejected one dealing with camping.

Commissioners approved ordinances that would prohibit panhandlers from asking for money in an aggressive way, make it illegal for people to trespass on rooftops, and limiting how people could sleep or sit on city sidewalks. But commissioners unanimously rejected an ordinance that would have cracked down on homeless camps in city parks and other public property.

The mixed decisions left both sides less than happy.

"This seems to be a symptom of a trend in our city: the criminalization of homelessness," said Kalila Dalton, a member of Lawrence-based Kansas Mutual Aid, an organization advocating on issues of class, race and gender. "If it is cold outside and if you have no warm place to be, it seems reasonable to build a fire. If you have no money, it seems reasonable to ask someone who appears well off for money."

An artist offers his artwork, an ink drawing based on the word "blessed," on a sidewalk downtown. While many musicians and artists take a laid-back approach to the enterprise of busking, or entertaining for money, the city is discussing ordinances to deal with aggressive panhandling.

An artist offers his artwork, an ink drawing based on the word "blessed," on a sidewalk downtown. While many musicians and artists take a laid-back approach to the enterprise of busking, or entertaining for money, the city is discussing ordinances to deal with aggressive panhandling.

But Ted Boyle, president of the North Lawrence Improvement Assn., said many North Lawrence residents felt the city needed to do more to crack down on homeless camps along the Kansas River.

"It seems like as many homeless advocates as we have, we could solve this by letting each one of them take a homeless resident home and letting them camp in their backyards and see how they like it," Boyle said. "That's the issue for me because the Kansas River is my backyard."

Commissioners unanimously rejected the bulk of the proposed camping ordinance because they said the city's current criminal trespassing ordinance allowed them to address the issue when problems arose. The main difference between the trespass ordinance and the camping ordinance was that under the trespass ordinance campers have to first be given a warning to leave before they could be ticketed.

"I don't think that is an unreasonable hoop for the city to be required to jump through," Mayor Boog Highberger said.

Commissioners did agree to approve a portion of the ordinance that would make it illegal for people to camp on private property without the express permission of the property owner.

The other ordinances that commissioners approved will:

¢ ban aggressive panhandling by prohibiting repeated attempts to solicit money from the same individual. It also would prohibit panhandlers from blocking someone's path or touching them. Panhandlers also would be banned from soliciting within 20 feet of an automatic teller machine or a bus stop. Panhandling people in vehicles also would be illegal. Commissioners approved the ordinance unanimously.

¢ make it illegal to lie or sit on a sidewalk in a way that blocks the path of a pedestrian or requires pedestrians to reroute their course. The ordinance does have exceptions for protests and other activities protected under the First Amendment. The ordinance was approved on a 3-2 vote, with Commissioner Mike Rundle and Highberger opposing it. Highberger said he thought the ordinance simply addressed "things that people didn't want to look at," rather than genuine public safety concerns.

¢ make it illegal for people to go onto the rooftop of a building without the permission of the building owner. Several downtown merchants have complained of people camping on their rooftops. The ordinance was approved unanimously.

All the ordinances will be required to appear on one more city commission agenda - likely next week's - to receive a second reading before they become official.

Hunting, trapping banned on city property

It soon officially will be illegal to hunt or trap animals on city property.

City commissioners Tuesday night unanimously gave preliminary approval to an ordinance that bans hunting and trapping of animals in city parks. The city's parks and recreation department reported it had received complaints of hunting and trapping activities in the Riverfront Park area for the last two years. When the complaints were turned over to the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks, conservation officers said a city ordinance would help in their enforcement efforts.

Approval delayed for office building

Commissioners agreed to delay approval of a site plan for a two-story office building at 4101 W. Sixth St. after several neighbors expressed concerns related to how the project would affect drainage in the area.

Commissioners directed the city's stormwater engineer and the project's developer, Doug Garber Construction, to conduct a meeting with neighbors.


Richard Heckler 12 years, 9 months ago

How much are taxpayers willing to pay? Homeless:

Jail will be very expensive to the taxpayer: $200-$300 per day? I am not sure whether or not Commissioners know the cost per day.

Taxpayers are you ready to spend more tax dollars for additional jail space? Jail space should be reserved for those committing serious violations: murder, rape, spouse abuse, meth lab owners etc.etc.

If the city has money to jail non violent offenders then we have money for a homeless shelter/camping area. We could afford 2-3 staff members supported with volunteers.

Do we need to further congest the courts agendas coupled with the cost of a court appointed attorney. Remember everybody has rights.

Who will define laying down? What is aggressive panhandling? Do you want to leave it to the discretion of a police officer? Will each police officer interpret the same? There is not a way for officers to record events during a shift so that the next shift can bring matters up on their computers. Neighborhoods have requested this capability for a few years which has yet to surface. I see many complications and lots of tax dollars being wasted.

Perhaps it is finally time to explore the city and county coming together on a Douglas County Vo-Tech Campus? I would rather see tax dollars spent on training for those who are capable of such. If not what will the offenders do once released?

A state/county mental health facility instead of using jail space?

OldEnuf2BYurDad 12 years, 9 months ago

I saw a sign downtown a few weeks ago: "Food not Banks". It made me think. We are a very wealthy nation, so we should try to help those in need, but the statement "Food not Banks" is ignorant. This is a rich country BECAUSE we have a firm financial infrastructure. We CAN help the needy BECAUSE of our riches. Here's my sign to carry around downtown: "Food because of Banks". This issue of the homeless is an example of what I mean. Can we do more to help the needy in Lawrence? Maybe. Probably. But should we ignore the needs of downtown businesses in order to help the homeless? NO! Our ability to help the homeless is closely tied to our ability to build and maintain wealth in our fair city. If my property values are dropping due to a homeless camp 10 feet from my backyard, that camp needs to go. If I cannot maintain my downtown business because someone chooses to sleep in the doorway of my store, then that person needs to move along.

Keep in mind: there are many spaces for someone to "hang out" other than RIGHT IN FRONT of an established business. There are places to camp other than parks and residential areas. We should not ignore the needs of the hungry and the cold, but we are foolish if we ruin our city in order to do it. Anyone who takes an anti-business stance in Lawrence probably doesn't realize that without vibrant businesses, Lawrence wouldn't be the city it is. What we love about this city is rooted in the financial infrastructure of the city. The arts. Culture. These things do not thrive where there is no MONEY (visit Wichita or Topeka if you don't believe me). If you don't appreciate Lawrence's business interests, you don't appreciate Lawrence.

Richard Heckler 12 years, 9 months ago


You made some legitimate points across the board. However my best guess is there were ordinances already on the books to deal with the situation.

If someone were agressively panhandling, very verbally pushy, then that sounds a bit like assault. More likely than not this will likely be enforced only downtown as with all of the new ordinances.

My best guess this is a long way from over. Any good attorney will challenge these new ordinances thus render them useless in the end.

After all 80% of fireworks ban violators,the ones that were contacted, got away with the violation.

Laying a fine on people with no money will cost more in bookeeping expenses, arrest warrants and more expensive jail time which to some will resemble the upscale Adolphus Hotel of Dallas,Texas.

lunacydetector 12 years, 9 months ago

since the downtown is the most subsidized area in our city (subsidized by the taxpayers), perhaps the downtown lawrence businesses should pay a fee to house the homeless and get them off the street. why have the city bail them out? the city (us taxpayers) fork out major money promoting the downtown, paying for the upkeep (cleaning and repairs) of the downtown and then there is the historic money to help revitalize the downtown (a tax break for the downtown to improve itself).

the only homeless advocates out there are the homeless themselves or some rich folks who live in far west lawrence. Perhaps the rich folks who live in far west lawrence should foot the bill and help out the homeless - they can spread their wealth.

okay, enough of me being ridiculous.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.