Saturday, May 25, 2013
Homeless Protester Says Mayor's Proposed Ban Is Personal
Mayor wants to make it illegal to sit, lie down on downtown sidewalks
ANCHORAGE—Mayor Dan Sullivan says he wants to increase public safety in downtown with a new city ordinance that would ban anyone from sitting or lying down on public sidewalks, but it’s a move that a 39-year-old homeless man says personally targets him.
For about a month, John William Martin III has been protesting outside of City Hall, in an effort to talk to the mayor about the city's policies toward the homeless.
The municipality managed to get Martin kicked off City Hall steps, though, by getting a judge to rule that Martin, who is a registered sex offender, violated his conditions of release by camping on city property without a permit.
"They're always going to dig dirt," Martin said. "Since that's part of my life, they're going to bring it up."
The proposed ordinance would make it illegal for anyone to sit or lie down on public sidewalks within the downtown improvement district, which encompasses most of downtown Anchorage, between the hours of 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. Under the Sullivan administration’s proposal, violators would be fined up to $100.
The proposed ordinance would not apply to those with a medical condition or disability. It would also not affect those who are sitting on a bench on a public sidewalk, nor those waiting for a bus.
Martin says the proposed city law targets him personally, and says it will not make homelessness go away.
"It's chasing homeless people out of the forest and into the streets of the city," he said. “So instead of eliminating homelessness, it’s just putting it right in everybody's back door."
Sullivan says the proposed law is needed to increase safety in downtown Anchorage.
"The reason we introduced the ordinance is because no one has the right to block pedestrian access on a public walkway, or otherwise impede a pedestrian's ability to walk down the street," Sullivan said in a written statement.
But some Anchorage Assemblymembers say they aren't sure if the ordinance is necessary.
"Is it an overbearing problem, I don't know that,” said Assemblymember Paul Honeman. “Anecdotally I would say that it hasn't been a huge issue."
"I wasn't aware there was any issue until I saw the ordinance,” said Assemblymember Elvi Gray-Jackson. “Quite frankly, I was surprised."
The proposed ordinance would also prohibit panhandling in the same area. Violators would be fined more than $300.
The Anchorage Assembly plans to hold a public hearing on the proposed ordinance on July 21.