Oops, never mind
City finds out new soliciting law can’t apply to W. Colorado Avenue after all
Police have gotten their answer on whether panhandlers can legally approach vehicles at accesses to and from Colorado Avenue west of 31st Street.
It's not what they expected… or wanted.
Yes, the newly approved city ordinanance extends a soliciting ban on interstates to all federal highways. And yes, that part of the avenue is marked as U.S. Business 24.
The problem, according to Gold Hill Police Substation Commander Pat Rigdon, is that the federal government does not recognize the stretch as part of the national highway system.
The result is that police have no more ability to bust panhandlers at the Red Rock Safeway entrance, for example, than they had before. Beggars remain legal at such curb cuts as long as they stay on the sidewalk, he explained.
Police had been hopeful that the new highways law would give them additional enforcement leverage in the area west of 31st Street - sometimes known as No Man's Land - where panhandlers symbolize a lingering crime problem.
“It's disappointing,” Rigdon said. “I know that a lot of folks on the Westside thought it [the ordinance] was going to be somewhat of the answer. But on the other side of the coin, we will enforce what we can over there.”
Rigdon said the information had been provided to the City Attorney's Office Dec. 4. However, despite a standing request from the Westside Pioneer (see story in Nov. 29 issue), the Mayor's Office did not clear Rigdon to respond until the night of Dec. 5 - too late for the newspaper to follow up with other government officials before the Pioneer's publication the morning of Dec. 6.
Also unavailable at press deadline was the rationale for the federal agency's decision, as well as the name of the agency itself.
Rigdon did emphasize his certainty that the City Attorney's Office had written the ordinance in good faith. “It was an assumption we made that it [west of 31st] was part of the national highway system,” he said.
The police commander added his belief that Kathleen Krager, the city's transportation manager, is appealing the decision. This also could not be researched prior to publication.
The highways ordinance was one of two related to soliciting in public places that the City Council approved on second and final reading Nov. 27. The other law established a downtown zone in which even passive solicitation is banned.
In another development since then, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has filed a lawsuit , claiming that the downtown zone violates free speech. A Denver judge denied the ACLU's request for a temporary restraining order, with another court date scheduled Dec. 13.
In the meantime, the city delayed the official start date of the ordinance from the originally announced Dec. 2 to Dec. 19.
Westside Pioneer article