Archive for Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Camper action

Lawrence city commissioners should approve an ordinance aimed at removing the unsightly campers that have taken up residence in South Park.

April 10, 2012


Every once in a while, city officials face a specific problem that requires a specific legal solution. Passing an ordinance to keep camping vehicles from taking up semipermanent residence around South Park is such a situation.

Tonight, city officials will consider a measure that will make it illegal to park camping trailers, recreational vehicles and other similar vehicles of a certain size in the public parking spaces on streets around South Park. Included are sections of Massachusetts, Vermont, 11th and South Park streets adjacent to both sections of the central-city park. The proposed ordinance calls for a $50-per-day fine; after a second offense the city would be authorized to tow the vehicle.

The ordinance is intended specifically to remove a couple of trailers that serve as permanent residences and regularly park in the area. One is a homemade wooden trailer that has been calling the park home since the middle of 2011. Its owner is a street musician who lives in the trailer and uses bathroom facilities in the Community Building. Although the trailer can be found parked on the west side of Massachusetts Street most of the time, the owner complies with the existing city ordinance that allows campers to be parked in nonresidential areas as long as they are moved from the spots at least once every 48 hours.

The people who are using Massachusetts Street as a trailer-camping spot may be complying with the letter of the law, but certainly not its intent. The vehicles are unsightly and detract from the ambience of the downtown park. Mayor Bob Schumm has asked city staff members to see whether there are other spots people could legally park their campers in the city for free, but he is right in saying that, “The city streets don’t owe them a long-term camping spot.”

The owner of the homemade trailer has objected to the ordinance, saying it is intended to disrupt his living arrangement. Well, that’s true. The problem is that his living arrangement creates a disruption for everyone who visits or drives by one of the city’s most pristine and historic public parks.

That is a legitimate concern for city officials and a legitimate cause for a new ordinance to deal with the situation.


seriouscat 6 years, 2 months ago

Has anyone bothered to inquire if there is a place that he could park that satisfies both desires? Would this individual be willing to move somewhere else that is still close enough to facilities but not on Mass next to the park? And has the city made any attempt whatsoever to find out?

And how come the city is ok with people actually breaking fake grass and going on rooftops for some people, but creating laws specifically to bully others?

True colors shinin through!

Evan Ridenour 6 years, 2 months ago

One group has money, one group does not. Makes sense to me.

somebodynew 6 years, 2 months ago

And just why should the City make any attempt on this. It is these guys who chose to live there. Both of them are adult and have plenty of time to look for alternatives, it should not be the City's job.

deec 6 years, 2 months ago

Why should the city waste time creating an ordinance targeting two people? They are not breaking any laws and are harming no one. Leave them alone.

seriouscat 6 years, 2 months ago

Why not? The city bends over backwards to do work out deals with individuals, businesses, and associations all the time. It IS the city's job.

Unfortunately in this case the city has adopted your attitude of "why do anything to help people or try to work together", because these two people happen to be poor and powerless and are easy to push around. So Lawrence as is typical for Kansas, adopts an ordinance targeting two specific individuals because the real goal is not simply to get these people off of Mass St. It is to make sure they know who is boss and just who can push who around....small minded, mean spirited thinking.

pizzapete 6 years, 2 months ago

What are disgusting OWS fleabaggers? I've seen this posted a couple of times on here, but have no idea what it means.

1983Hawk 6 years, 2 months ago

Yes, dude, the government should indeed take action to assure that anyone who disagrees with you politically is taken "away" as an unsightly and disgusting mess. Interesting how far-rightistas are libertarians and want the public sector out of everyone's lives, unless of course it serves as their pliant tool to punish perceived political enemies.

Liberty275 6 years, 2 months ago

Libertarians punish their rivals, at least domestically, by not buying their wares and not voting for them. Would you provide an example where a libertarian has abused government to punish political rivals?

yourworstnightmare 6 years, 2 months ago

If these men are destitute, they should seek help at shelters and social services. If they are mentally ill, they should seek the same.

However, they should not be allowed to park their trailers wherever they want and squat there.

Do not mistake lazy hippies for the truly destitute or mentally ill.

deec 6 years, 2 months ago

They aren't parking wherever they want. They are parking legally in parking spaces designated for large vehicles. Until tonight, that is, when the city will make them illegal. They are harming no one. They are minding their own business. They should be left alone to live their lives as they see fit.

asixbury 6 years, 2 months ago

Eyesores are not an excuse for government action. I think your posts are an eyesore; I'm going to petition the city to make your posts illegal.

daddax98 6 years, 2 months ago

"hurting property values around them. "

what is the property value of a public park?

yourworstnightmare 6 years, 2 months ago

Please, deec.

These men are living on the street. While the spot is a legal parking spot, the city has the right and obligation to ensure that the spot is used for parking and not for squatting and living.

These men are not parking there. They have set up residence there.

While I generally agree that people should be left alone to live their lives as they see fit, squatting on public property is abusing a public space. They should not be able to do this as they see fit.

Kim Schulz 6 years, 2 months ago

Truly a waste of time and money. We have certain freedom's and the participants have made efforts to comply with the law. Let it be!

esteshawk 6 years, 2 months ago

Wonder if they are even street legal. If not, tow them. If so, and theyve paid the vehicle registration fee, let them be.

Richard Heckler 6 years, 2 months ago

These people are taxpayers. If not they would have been notified by law enforcement by now.

I'm more concerned about politicians inability to keep "growth at any cost to the taxpayer" in check.

Flap Doodle 6 years, 2 months ago

"These people are taxpayers...." Why do you think that and if they do what does that have to do with homesteading a parking place and pooing into a bucket?

jafs 6 years, 2 months ago

According to what I've read, they use the bathroom facilities in the Community building - any evidence that they're doing what you claim?

asixbury 6 years, 2 months ago

I have evidence that they don't use those buckets as you say they do. I asked. Imagine that! Talking to someone to understand what is going on instead of just assuming the worst. The bucket is mainly used for donations and suggestions while he performs.

otto 6 years, 2 months ago

They aren't using city services at 2 am when they gotta go.

jhawkinsf 6 years, 2 months ago

Merrill - "These people are taxpayers" How does one define that? If a person lives in housing provided for by taxpayers, receives welfare, food stamps, etc., all provided for by taxpayers and then panhandles enough to buy a soda, and then pays taxes on that soda, would you define that person as a taxpayer. Could you understand if someone else did not define that person as a taxpayer? Perhaps to avoid confusion, we should state whether a person is a net contributor to the system or a net consumer of the system.

Patricia Davis 6 years, 2 months ago

I was thinking the same thing. However, whether one pays property or vehicle or state income tax, isn't the total issue. The buckets of human waste is a health issue. These RV folks are smart enough to game the system. Why not use that intelligence to get a job? And I totally agree with you about the panhandling issue. Stop supporting the panhandlers and the "street musicians" directly. I'm calling for a little tough love here.

jafs 6 years, 2 months ago

That's an interesting idea.

If we apply it, then conservative Republican states are quite often net consumers of tax dollars, taking more from the federal government than they pay in taxes to it.

jhawkinsf 6 years, 2 months ago

Looking at it state by state would be interesting, though my initial thought was more about individuals. I'm sure we've all seen the comments in this forum about people who do not pay federal income taxes yet are still called taxpayers by some. My question is once we see how much they pay in and then compare that to how much they consume, would we still be inclined to call them taxpayers or should we call them tax consumers. We can look at corporations as well. Those who are labeled as receivers of corporate welfare, do they receive more than they pay in, or do they pay more than they receive.
My primary concern when I brought this up, was that by making a statement that is nominally true, it leaves a false impression. Let the truth speak for itself.

jafs 6 years, 2 months ago

I know.

I applied it to states, to make a point - those who often rail against "takers" turn out to often be those, which is ironic.

Personally, I'm not that interested in making those sorts of judgments about people, as if their value/worth/opinion depends on how much they pay in taxes.

It's a bit too patrician for me, and doesn't blend well with my understanding of democracy.

jhawkinsf 6 years, 2 months ago

I am also not as interested in making judgements upon individuals. Though I would then extend that reservation of judgement on corporations as well as upon individuals states. I would like for the arguments to be honest though. I very much dislike it when someone throws out a fact that is true, yet misleading. And the misleading part of it is so extreme that their truthful statement could be better characterized as a lie.

jafs 6 years, 2 months ago

Oh, I'm glad to judge people, and groups of people, in a variety of ways - this just isn't one of them :-)

BiPolarWookie_w_PhD 6 years, 2 months ago

Out West we call this type of situation a failure to communicate with the Park Rangers. Urban Park Rangers seem to attract other like minded individuals with careers in Forestry and Urban Design.

tomatogrower 6 years, 2 months ago

Is my mind a little "racy" today. I saw the headline "Camper Action" and thought "if the trailer is arockin, don't come aknocin.

BiPolarWookie_w_PhD 6 years, 2 months ago

Are the beefsteaks coming in nice this year?

kansasredlegs 6 years, 2 months ago

Will this ordinance prohibit those big RV buses from parking and taking up multiple spaces when bands playing at Granada & Bottleneck come to town?

Kablamo 6 years, 2 months ago

Just because you think something is ugly doesn't mean you should make it illegal.

asixbury 6 years, 2 months ago

+1. I think a lot of it stems from jealousy; unconscious jealousies that these men are not tied down by rent or a mortgage and are able to live a much simpler lifestyle than they themselves are capable of. If you don't like the way they live, who cares!

I do understand it being a concern for parents with the trailers being located next to the park. Just move out of that particular area and everything is good.

yourworstnightmare 6 years, 2 months ago

Don't try to romanticize these squatters as vagabond free spirits. They are abusers of public space and resources, which may be a "lifestyle choice" but is certainly not a good one for anybody concerned.

There are questions of public space use and abuse, of health, of safety, and of appearance. Who wants a piece of crap trailer in front of a nice park?

If you think that is ok, then I suggest you take hawkbuilder's advice below and invite these men to park their trailers in front of your house or, better yet, in your driveway.

jafs 6 years, 2 months ago

The problem with that is there are many things I don't particularly like seeing in public spaces - should I be able to outlaw them?

If there are in fact public health and safety concerns, then I'm pretty sure there are existing laws that can be enforced.

asixbury 6 years, 2 months ago

If you re-read my previous post, I said I didn't think the trailers should be parked next to South Park, or any other parks for that matter. I also posted previously that I would not care if they parked on my street, as long as they don't block access to my driveway or cause any damage to my property. There is a major difference between parking in a legal, public spot and parking in someone else’s private driveway. If you cannot tell the difference, you are the one with the problem.

"They are abusers of public space and resources, which may be a "lifestyle choice" but is certainly not a good one for anybody concerned." The only thing they are abusing is the right to park their trailers on a public parking spot. How else are they abusing anything? There lifestyle choice is just that, their choice. Who frankly cares what you think of it. Their actions are not affecting you in any way.

Mike George 6 years, 2 months ago

My suggestion to all who think that this type of behavior is acceptable, good for business, meets public health considerations and inspires people's consideration of Lawrence diversity - please sign a list that I will be happy to post in a conspicuous downtown location and indicate when they can park in front of your houses or in your driveways. Take some ownership in this issue, and be a good example!

jafs 6 years, 2 months ago

And those on the other side should be glad for me to pass ordinances involving all of the things I personally find distasteful, and banning them from public spaces.

This might be your clothing choices, your car, etc.

yourworstnightmare 6 years, 2 months ago

This is not about what people find distasteful. It is about use and abuse of public spaces.

jafs 6 years, 2 months ago

And "abuse" seems to be defined by many as an activity they find distasteful.

yourworstnightmare 6 years, 2 months ago

These men are squatters on public space, which is an abuse of that space. Use of the toilets in the community center is also an abuse of that facility.

They are violating the spirit of that parking space as a public parking space.

If they are destitute or mentally, they should get help at SRS.

If they want to camp, they should go to a campground.

I don't assume to know what their motivation is, but my suspicion is that they are lazy hippies who want to get away with something.

I certainly would not want them "parking" in front of my house. If they were, I would expect that the police would find them help or move them along.

jafs 6 years, 2 months ago

If the community center toilets are open to the public, then they're not abusing them by using them.

If the street in front of your house is a street that's legal to park on, then if they parked there, they wouldn't be breaking any laws - why should the police "move them along"?

What if you parked in front of my house, and I found your car objectionable - should I be able to "move you along" because of that?

yourworstnightmare 6 years, 2 months ago

jafs, I think you are smart enough to know the differences between use of a public resource/space and abuse of that space.

I don't think I need to tell you that it is a difference between occasional or temporary use versus squatting, setting up residence, and abusing the resource.

If I parked in front of your house and left my car there for weeks, yes, you should have it moved, especially if I was living in it.

My suspicion is that you would not want someone living in a camper parked "legally" in front of your house. If so, then so be it, but if not, ask yourself why you would not want this.

jafs 6 years, 2 months ago

There are many things I might not like, or prefer, but I don't feel a need to make laws outlawing them.

In a free society, that's the price we pay for freedom - that some of the things people do will offend us and/or we may find them distasteful.

I'm pushing the argument a little bit, I know, but it seems like many people are way too willing to control others' behavior based mainly on esthetic concerns.

If your car was parked in front of my house legally, for weeks, then why should I "have it moved"?

pizzapete 6 years, 2 months ago

I agree these vehicles are an eyesore, but they are following the existing laws. Instead of changing the law, maybe the city should consider putting in some of those 15 minutes parking meters there. You know, the ones recently put in for our convenience that give us just enough time to park, go to the bathroom, and then hurry back to the car to continue looking for a better spot.

Richard Heckler 6 years, 2 months ago

There is an existing ordinance on the books that prevents long term parking on any city street.

Simple as that. These campers have been moving their vehicles like good taxpayers.

yourworstnightmare 6 years, 2 months ago

What free spirited, mischievous vagabonds these guys are! Truly role models for all to follow!

Living in a crap trailer, using a public rest room, impetuously skirting along the edge of the letter of the law.

Such scallywags exposing the injustice of Lawrence parking regulations!

yourworstnightmare 6 years, 2 months ago

This reminds me of the little boy sticking his finger near the little girl's face and saying "I'm not touching you."

The letter of the law may not have been crossed, but the spirit of the law certainly has been.

It is against the public good to have people living in trailers on parking spots next to the park and using the park bathrooms.

Unfortunately, the actions of these "free spirited vagabonds" will lead to the restriction of use of public space by all, such as meters or restricted parking hours.

Gotalife 6 years, 2 months ago

So a group of friends and neighbors watched the city commission meeting on television with me tonight. A room full of laughter burst forth when the two men began to speak about constitutional rights, using less than desirable language that sounded both ignorant and violent. We really got a kick out of the one comment, "and I was even sober!" Awesome...way to convince the authority before you that you have a legitimate complaint that should be taken seriously. Thanks for the laughs protesters..LOL

Haiku_Cuckoo 6 years, 2 months ago

I don't understand the comments claiming that people are jealous of these guys. Seriously, what is so desirable about living in a wooden trailer and pooping in a bucket? Doesn't a warm bed and working plumbing sound much better? Nobody is jealous of the poor lifestyle choices these guys have made.

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