Colorado mayor proposes 'Sitting and Lying Ordinance'
A proposed ordinance for downtown Colorado Springs and Old Colorado City would allow police officers to ticket people who sit or lie in public spots.
Council member Tom Strand gave a presentation at Monday's city council work session about the proposed Sitting and Lying ordinance. It would prohibit people from sitting, kneeling, reclining and laying down on the surface of a public row, an object placed there, like planters, and street furniture that's not intended for sitting.
"It's just folks that kind of you know sit down somewhere and impede the passage of many of our citizens that want to use the sidewalks from point A to point B," said Strand.
He says it would increase safety in the community and could help boost business.
"I think there will be economic benefit for businesses, as people will come downtown, both Colorado Springs and Old Colorado City, that might otherwise be dissuaded to do that because they've got to go through some sort of a maneuver in order to get to the store or business that they want to enter," said Strand.
He said the current ordinance in place is over 50 years old and doesn't allow police to ticket people for sitting and lying in certain spots.
"It's to allow people to have passageway without stepping over or around people that are in front of businesses and commercial enterprises," said Strand.
Some other council members don't like the idea.
"I really just feel like this ordinance is not really solving anything," said council member Jill Gaebler. "I don't understand how it's really going to help."
One Colorado Springs woman agrees, saying there's a bigger issue that needs to be addressed.
"People have a right to find a place to sit down and if there isn't enough beds, if there isn't enough places to go, then we need to help provide that before we make that behavior criminal," said Ann Carlisle.
“They are people," Carlisle added. "They’re humans and they deserve to be treated with some human dignity. And, if we don’t have a solution for them, if we don’t have any ideas how to help, criminalizing it is only going to make it more difficult for them to access services.”
The ordinance would not affect people who have a disability or who aren't feeling well and need to rest. Other cities have similar ordinances in place, including Denver.
The penalty could carry a fine up to $2,500 or jail time up to 189 days or probation. The time limit would be from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily and on Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 a.m.
In other states, the federal government has said similar bans criminalize homelessness itself. Strand says they have had legal experts look at the language of the ordinance to make sure it's constitutional.
A public hearing will be held next Thursday, September, 3 at 6 p.m. at the City Auditorium. Another one will be held September, 17 at 6 p.m. at the Westside Community Center.
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