Colorado

Mar 27, 2013 8:24 PM by Andy Koen

Council officially ends downtown panhandling ban

COLORADO SPRINGS - Street preachers and panhandlers need not worry about running afoul of city code. Four months after passing the controversial downtown No Solicitation Zone, city council reversed itself Tuesday by scratching nearly every news aspect of the amended ordinance from the books. All that's left is the 20 foot boundary from entryways in which "aggressive" soliciting is banned.

Steve Saint of the Pikes Peak Justice and Peace Commission was one of the plaintiffs in a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union that effectively killed the ban.

"I sometimes wonder, I mean is that, if we sort of take this legal approach like what law can we pass and you spend this money on lawyers, is that really the best use of resources?"

Council members we spoke with say, yes, it was worth the money. They feel the 20 foot limit is much better for businesses. Additionally, some councilors felt obligated to try remedy problems downtown because the city owns the sidewalks.

The city actually owned up to these people's doorways and they were having an issue and it was causing them economic harm," Councilwoman Angela Dougan explained. "Now that we got the 14 feet, they seem to think it's working."

But Saint says it's no victory because nothing new has happened to help the homeless.

"They don't need scorn and derision and judgment," Saint said. "They need someone to go down there, get their hands dirty and say how can we help you?"

A statement released by the ACLU applauded the city's decision. It reads:

"The ACLU of Colorado is pleased that Colorado Springs has decided to repeal this overbroad, ill-advised and unconstitutional ordinance.

Forbidding any and all solicitation in a huge 12-city block downtown area was a significant overreach. In fact, the City was unable to cite a single case in which a court had upheld such a broad restriction of speech.

"We are delighted that the free expression rights of musicians, theater performers, nonprofit fundraisers and others will be restored and respected."

 

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