Tuesday, May 21, 2013
Proposed Sidewalk Laying, Sitting Ban Postponed Indefinitely
It was the result of some heated discussion between the assembly and the mayor, and some passionate testimony from the public.
Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan's so-called safe sidewalk ordinance is on hold after the Anchorage Assembly voted 9-1 to indefinitely postpone the measure to ban laying and sitting down on downtown pathways.
It was the result of some heated discussion between the assembly and the mayor, and some passionate testimony from the public. Much of the testimony insisted that banning people from sitting and sleeping on a sidewalk is not the answer to solving the city's homeless problem.
In what many consider a waste of city time, there wasn't a lot of support from the crowd sitting in Anchorage Assembly chambers over Sullivan's proposed ordinance Tuesday evening.
It’s an ordinance that many believe was created to get homeless protestor and sex offender John Martin III out of the mayor's hair.
“We're spending time about people sitting or sleeping on the sidewalks in downtown Anchorage,” said Anchorage resident Jed Whitaker. “This ordinance is unneeded and unconstitutional,” said Jahna Pollock, another Anchorage resident.
Members of Project 50/50, a homeless assistance group, said the proposed ordinance wouldn’t have worked.
“This is an effort to ignore or hide or kind of push away a problem,” said Shay Kelley, who along with her husband Shane have gone to all 50 states talking with the homeless.
Shay said that Anchorage is trying to push a population of people into the woods to live and try to survive.
But Sullivan disagrees. He said that the city does offer help and the ordinance would be a proactive way for police to keep the community safe.
“I think you find if you talk to our community service patrol people that they are picking up people who are sleeping on sidewalks on regular basis,” he said.
But Anchorage residents who testified Tuesday told the assembly that anyone could easily find themselves homeless.
“People get stuck in situations all the time but what happens is one thing layers on another, layers on another,” said Mary Morgan, who testified about being homeless with her kids.
With a need to balance city safety and helping the homeless, many believe Sullivan should go back to the drawing board to develop a plan.
As the previously proposed ordinance has been postponed indefinitely, it will have to be put in front of the assembly in a new form.