The Aberdeen City Council this week took another step closer to new regulations on city sidewalks and panhandling. Two ordinances passed a second reading during the council meeting Wednesday night. If they pass a third at the next meeting they will frame what we can and cannot do on city sidewalks, and restrict people from panhandling at night.
Some worried about legal issues with the ordinances seeming to target a specific population. Resident Mike Nelson from ward 4 also worried that the sidewalk ordinance does apply to everyone, “Even though they’re clearly targetting homeless people. As it’s worded [it] applies to all people. Meaning residents, taxpayers, tourists, property owners. You’re making it effectively illegal for children to sit on the sidewalk – sit, in protest. If you want to express yourself by sitting or laying down you have that constitutionally protected freedom. This ordinance challenges that, it stomps on the freedom of the people.”
Mayor Erik Larson said on CoffeeTalk Thursday morning that it did not target a specific group, “This is targetting a behavior. If people feel that that behavior means that it’s targetting a certain group of people, then that just means that that group of people is doing that behavior.”
Running down a list; sitting or lying down would not be allowed on sidewalks during the daytime. Although the council last night changed the ‘daytime’ window to 6 am to 11 pm. Sitting includes sitting on a blanket, chair, stool, or “other object” – although not mentioned, walkers and powered wheelchairs are regulated by the state and the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The City of Monroe last month passed a similar law only allowing sitting or lying on their sidewalks for 4 hours during the day.
Another proposed ordinance would make it illegal to ask for money anywhere after sunset or before sunrise. It would also be illegal to ask in front of businesses without their permission, at gas stations, car washes, or within 20 feet of an ATM. It would also prohibit solicitation on Grays Harbor Transit buses, the bus station downtown, and bus stops throughout the city.
The council will discuss adoption of the ordinances and take public comment at their next meeting on the 23rd.