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Guest column from OWN: Concern about city suspension of panhandling laws

       By Welling Clark, President, Organization of Westside Neighbors (OWN)

       The majority of Colorado Springs panhandling codes have been temporarily suspended by the Colorado Springs City Attorney's Office, based on Freedom of Speech complaints by the American Civil Liberties Union and city legal concerns resulting from a U.S. Supreme Court ruling this year in the case titled Reed vs. the Town of Gilbert, Arizona.
       For example, this means panhandlers can now legally ask for handouts (defined as “soliciting” in the City Code) at ATMs, sidewalk cafes, lines in front of theaters, on
One of the most visible indications of the city temporarily suspending most of its panhandling-related laws is people being allowed to stand with signs on road medians - even ones as narrow as the one on 31st Street between Colorado Avenue (foreground) and Highway 24. Photo looks south.
Westside Pioneer photo
the bus or other areas where previously people could only silently hold up a sign (an act that's exempted from soliciting laws).
       Also suspended is a previously mandated 20-foot standoff distance for solicitors from a building entrance, along with restrictions against soliciting on the medians between lanes of traffic and at the off-ramps from highways/interstates.
       Panhandlers can now continue to follow anyone down the street and continually ask for money as long as they do not touch, harass or threaten (which will be harder to prove, due to some of the code suspensions).
       Additional detail is provided in a recent Westside Pioneer article.
       To report non-life threatening crimes/suspicious activities, call 444-7000.
       For life threatening emergencies call 911.

       Westside Avenue Action Plan: Current status and schedule
       Feb. 2016: 90 percent design complete, begin property acquisition process.
       2016: Begin utility relocation, where possible, ahead of construction start.
       El Paso County and the cities of Manitou Springs and Colorado Springs have been working with the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) to assure continuity and coordination with the state's planned 2016 milling and overlay of the U.S. 24 interchange.
       CDOT is adjusting its spring maintenance project schedule to coincide with WAAP project phasing. This maintenance work will tie into the WAAP project improvements starting at the devolution boundary.
       The WAAP website, westsideavenueplan.com, describes the project as follows: “The Westside Avenue Action Plan is a collaborative community effort to develop short-term transportation and safety improvement recommendations and a long-range, livable, walkable economic vision for the 1.5 miles of US 24 Business West (Colorado/Manitou avenues between 31st Street and the US 24 interchange). The plan will lead to the construction of roadway and safety improvements in this area [using] Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority tax revenues.”
       For periodic e-newsletter updates, send an email to info@WestsideAvenuePlan.com.

       CSPD update: Protect yourself
       The following are suggestions from CSPD Crime Prevention at the Gold Hill Police Substation, 385-2117.
       - Stay alert!
       - Who is around you?
       - Are they watching you?
       - Do you know where you are?
       - Could you tell emergency personnel where you are?
       - Have you told your family members where you are going?
       - Do you have any personal safety devices and do you know how to use them?
       - Do you carry a whistle or personal alarm?

       OWN contact info
       OWN is a volunteer advocacy group for the older Westside. For more information, call 471-4023 or e-mail info@westsideneighbors.org.

(Posted 11/22/15; Opinion: Guest Columns)

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