This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
aspx?DID=2185 The existing ordinance restricts people from blocking the sidewalk. The amended language we were considering would also make it illegal to sleep or lie down on the sidewalk even if you are not interfering with 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 issue of people feeling impeded from entering a business but does not make it illegal for homeless people to exist in public. The room was full of downtown business owners who really want us to pass an ordinance that will make the homeless people disappear. I sympathize with them. Retail is really challenging. There is a lot of competition and little things can win or lose customers. I do my best to support our downtown businesses, 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 they are given. Some percentage of the population will always be in this state. Then there are the folks described by our downtown ambassador today as “rebels.” They are the younger transient crowd who choose 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 sad and a little uncomfortable, but not scared. My amendment passed with Dave, Jason, Pam, Ed and I voting in favor. Renee, Dick, and Jon Wilkins voting against. Arguments from Jon were along the lines that there are rules in society and these people need to follow them. We offer various assistance programs. They should avail themselves of these programs. Just because they don’t, doesn’t mean we should let them sit around on the sidewalk. Dick’s perspective was along the lines that by allowing them to sleep on the sidewalk we are enabling them. I disagree 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 society offered the resources the problem would still exist, but maybe at a level the shoppers could tolerate. I also think 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 many of 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 to them. They are tired of dealing with the fallout that comes from these folks being concentrated in the downtown. I expect to see a lot of the business owners at the council meeting on Monday. I also expect to see folks from the social services community. What I’m hoping is that we will also see folks who are willing to speak about how they love our downtown and think it is a great place to work, shop, and live. All this harping on the one negative thing about downtown can’t be the best thing for business. If I remember right, Scott Sproull produced data that showed a decline in business that directly corresponded with the hoopla about the supposed lack of parking downtown. So if you prefer the downtown to the mall and the box 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 makes this community so great. In Conservation we learned about a new conservation easement being purchased way up Miller Creek with open space bond money. It is the 207 acre Anderson Ranch. We are putting in $25,000 and the county is putting in $175,000. Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation is putting the deal together and will hold the easement. The easement was appraised at $1,800,000. The property is a working ranch and a critical piece of the wildlife corridor from the Sapphires to the Bitterroots. Here are more details: http://www.ci.missoula.mt.us/DocumentView.aspx?DID=2305
In PAZ we mostly discussed the Sonata Park findings of fact. This is a subdivision up at the end of the west side of the Rattlesnake. We approved it two years ago. The neighbors sued us. The judge said we needed to specify our reasons for why we approved it based on what was in the record. He didn’t want to have to wade through the hundreds of pages of documents. So Staff waded through it all and distilled it down to about twenty pages of arguments that were made during the process. We need to review this and add anything we can think of and then adopt it as our findings of fact. We can’t change anything about the decision, we can only provide explanation for why we made it. In A&F we did some misc. budget stuff. Nothing too exciting. Public Works had a couple of interesting items. We discussed a parking encroachment permit for the project at 420 Nora street. The developer has made some changes to their project and now needs more parking to comply with zoning. So they are asking the city to essentially vacate right of way so they can meet their parking requirement. The public works department is not so hot on giving away the public right of way unless we are absolutely sure there is nothing we will ever need it for. It turned out the developer was not notified that this was going to be on our agenda so we held it over for another week so we could hear what they have to say. We also heard about the plan to reduce fuel use by the city in response to our resolution to cut fuel use by 10%. What we learned is that over the last few years the city has done a lot to reduce our energy needs. There are some departments that will be easier to find gains in than others. The heavy equipment use is based on the weather. If there is snow, we plow and it uses diesel. We also agreed to change the target date for compliance from 1/1/2011 to 7/1/2011. Aligning it with our fiscal year will simplify the accounting and documentation. Here is a link to the report: http://www.ci.missoula.mt.us/DocumentView.aspx?DID=2308