Mayor Sam Adams and City Commissioner Amanda Fritz called a meeting on Tuesday, September 1, to talk about a "sidewalk management initiative" that they hope to introduce soon to replace the unconstitutional sit-lie law.
Only homeless advocates were invited to the meeting, from agencies like Sisters of the Road, Street Roots, and Transition Projects, Inc. Fritz said others—like the general public—weren't invited because she wanted to give the invited people the opportunity to speak.
The meeting was called with just 24-hours notice, and until the last moment, there was ambiguity about press access. Adams even suggested that attendees should be allowed to say things that they wanted kept "off the record" if the assembled press in the room could accept those rules—in his words, so that people at the meeting could "say something without it being printed in the newspaper." Fortunately nobody wanted his or her words kept secret, but I'll be interested to see whether business advocates feel the same way at their own upcoming meeting with the mayor. What might they have to hide, I wonder?
The advocates expressed the same concerns they have been voicing for years about ordinances that are targeted specifically against homeless people. If there's a problem with harassment or drug activity, asked Brendan Phillips, a community organizer with Sisters of the Road, why don't we enforce those laws against people instead of creating a broad overarching ordinance that simply targets homeless people?
"The vast majority of the folks out there slinging dope are standing up," said Street Roots Director Israel Bayer. "We agree 110 percent that there are X, Y, and Z problems around drugs—we're just not sure using sit-lie is the appropriate way to tackle those problems."
Adams said he plans to craft a sidewalk management package that takes all the laws about sidewalk obstruction—covering sidewalk cafés, A-boards, newspaper boxes, and so on, as well as access and passage issues on the sidewalk—and puts them under one umbrella of city code. But he also acknowledged that city council is on the third, "or is it fourth?" iteration of trying to regulate its sidewalks for these issues, and said he wanted to make sure that the new ordinance passes constitutional muster as well as being simple enough for everyone to understand.
Then Fritz said something marvelous: "We get it. We heard. Sit-lie is gone." Let's hope she says the same thing to the business folks next week.