Groups: It’s not ‘No Man’s Land’ anymore

       “No Man's Land” is no more.
       This was the recent, simultaneous determination by two groups that are seeking to better the area of Colorado Avenue between about 31st Street and the Manitou Avenue/Highway 24 interchange.
       Instead, at least for now, they're going with “Westside Avenue.”

Matt Parkhouse, a registered nurse who helped found the downtown Red Cross shelter in 1984, criticized most panhandlers as people who are not needy but are good at finding ways to take advantage of compassionate people. He was among several citizens to speak out during a public meeting in the Colorado Springs Shrine Club June 12 on a proposed panhandling ordinance.
Westside Pioneer photo

       The term is the brainstorm of the consultant team that's been hired to detail and prioritize civic improvements along that stretch (see story at left). When Barry Grossman, a consultant team member, came to a meeting June 18 of law enforcement officers and citizens focusing on crime issues in that area, he shared the moniker with the group and they agreed by consensus to use it too.
       County Sheriff's Office Patrol Division Commander Rob King declared that the “branding” of an area is important. As such, the term No Man's Land “is negative,” he said, “and it's time to quit calling it that.”
       As for developing a permanent, possibly more specific name, Grossman has said that such could be part of the study effort, with the public weighing in.
       In an informal outreach effort, the Westside Pioneer has received and published close to 20 renaming ideas from readers in the past few weeks.
       The nickname, No Man's Land, cropped up several years ago when problems began surfacing there - an apparent combination of an aging commercial area (including about 20 older motels) and lack of significant civic improvements in recent years, which officials have blamed in part on there being multiple government jurisdictions.
       However, lately, those governments have secured a $300,000 grant for the consultant study and planned a $12 million upgrade in that area as a top-priority item for the proposed extension of the Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority.
       On June 12, at a citizens' meeting addressing the panhandling question, County Commissioner Sallie Clark also noted the negative overtones of the nickname, but commented, “Calling it No Man's Land has certainly gotten everyone's attention.”
       The focus on panhandling is based on concerns that the prevalence of beggars hurts commerce, that some are part of a criminal element that also commits burglaries in stores and nearby residences, and others are actually professional beggars who seek ways to play on people's hearstrings (such as having a dog or children with them).
       To counteract the problem, the City of Colorado Springs is drafting a no-panhandling ordinance for public property in the “Westside Avenue” area (as well as in the downtown) with the idea of having it considered by City Council at its meeting June 25 and possibly approved formally July 10.
       About 60 people attended the June 12 meeting at the Colorado Springs Shrine Club. A repeated theme was not to give money to the panhandlers because it just encourages them and can even cost taxpayers money when they use such freebie funds to get drunk and wind up being taken to a hospital emergency room.
       One statement at that meeting, quoting an unnamed representative of the Old Colorado City Associates (OCCA) business group who'd reportedly said there was no panhandling problem in that historic shopping district, was hotly disputed later by OCCA Vice President Carole Jourdan. Speaking at a meeting June 20 of the Old Colorado City Security & Maintenance District Board, Jourdan said there is indeed a problem and warned the board that if west-of-31st is protected but not Old Town, “this will become the land of the homeless.”
       Sharing her concern was Maintenance Board member Keith Canfield, who, like Jourdan, is an Old Colorado City merchant. He said he had been threatened with violence recently after asking a panhandler near his store - who'd displayed a sign requesting money for “beer and weed” - to relocate.
       At the June 12 meeting, when people were asked to stand up if they supported an area-specific no-panhandling ordinance, almost everyone did. They did the same when asked if they supported making panhandling illegal citywide; however, such a blanket law is believed to be unsupportable from a constitutional standpoint.
       Some at the meeting expressed concern about being too heavy-handed and making sure that information about the new law is well publicized before police start enforcing it.
       The city does have a citywide “aggressive panhandling” ordinance, which makes it illegal for beggars to keep asking a person for a handout when they've already been turned down.

Westside Pioneer article