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Jaffee Committee Rpt. 092909

Jaffee Committee Rpt. 092909

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Published by: NDW427 on Oct 01, 2009
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10/01/2009

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Greetings, In Public Safety this morning we took up the Pedestrian Interference Ordinance.http://www.ci.missoula.mt.us/DocumentView.aspx?DID=2185The existing ordinance restricts people from blocking the sidewalk. The amended language we wereconsidering would also make it illegal to sleep or lie down on the sidewalk even if you are not interferingwith pedestrians. I moved to amend the language to say that people could not lie or sleep on the sidewalk within 12 feet of the entrance to a business. I thought this was a good compromise that addresses the issueof people feeling impeded from entering a business but does not make it illegal for homeless people to existin public. The room was full of downtown business owners who really want us to pass an ordinance thatwill make the homeless people disappear. I sympathize with them. Retail is really challenging. There is alot of competition and little things can win or lose customers. I do my best to support our downtownbusinesses, both on council and with my wallet. But I’m not going to vote to criminalize homelessness.From what I’ve seen and what I hear, there are two groups of people being targeted by this ordinance.There are the destitute homeless folks who just plain need help. Their lives are a train wreck and many of them will probably never be functional members of society regardless of the programs and assistance theyare given. Some percentage of the population will always be in this state. Then there are the folksdescribed by our downtown ambassador today as “rebels.” They are the younger transient crowd whochoose to live on the fringe of society.To be honest, the ‘rebels’ are the ones I worry about. The guy passed out on the sidewalk makes me sadand a little uncomfortable, but not scared.My amendment passed with Dave, Jason, Pam, Ed and I voting in favor. Renee, Dick, and Jon Wilkinsvoting against. Arguments from Jon were along the lines that there are rules in society and these peopleneed to follow them. We offer various assistance programs. They should avail themselves of theseprograms. Just because they don’t, doesn’t mean we should let them sit around on the sidewalk. Dick’sperspective was along the lines that by allowing them to sleep on the sidewalk we are enabling them. Idisagree with most of this. There would be some merit to Jon’s argument if we offered adequate care,treatment, or resources for homeless with mental illness and chemical dependency problems. But even if we did, there would still be people who just would not go along with the program. So even if our societyoffered the resources the problem would still exist, but maybe at a level the shoppers could tolerate. I alsothink Dick’s argument would work with some folks. If we made it even harder for the homeless to exist,some of them may find the wherewithal to become productive functioning members of society. But manyof them would probably just sink even lower. What I heard from the business owners is that they don’t care why they are homeless or what happens tothem. They are tired of dealing with the fallout that comes from these folks being concentrated in thedowntown. I expect to see a lot of the business owners at the council meeting on Monday. I also expect tosee folks from the social services community. What I’m hoping is that we will also see folks who arewilling to speak about how they love our downtown and think it is a great place to work, shop, and live. Allthis harping on the one negative thing about downtown can’t be the best thing for business. If I rememberright, Scott Sproull produced data that showed a decline in business that directly corresponded with thehoopla about the supposed lack of parking downtown. So if you prefer the downtown to the mall and thebox stores, please let our business owners know. They seem to have an inferiority complex when they look to the other retail centers in town. Go spend some money and let them know they are part of what makesthis community so great. In Conservation we learned about a new conservation easement being purchased way up Miller Creek withopen space bond money. It is the 207 acre Anderson Ranch. We are putting in $25,000 and the county isputting in $175,000. Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation is putting the deal together and will hold theeasement. The easement was appraised at $1,800,000. The property is a working ranch and a critical pieceof the wildlife corridor from the Sapphires to the Bitterroots. Here are more details:http://www.ci.missoula.mt.us/DocumentView.aspx?DID=2305

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