GUEST COLUMN:
Solicitation laws and the Westside
By Lisa Czelatdko

       The only type of solicitation in other parts of the city that can be enforced are the behaviors clearly lined out in the ordinance and those considered to be more active or aggressive solicitation. To disallow even passive solicitation (holding signs and remaining nonverbal) will take a specific no-solicitation zone as downtown has received. The county also needs to step up and deal with issues in areas that fall under its jurisdiction.


       I was vocal at every City Council meeting, saying I was comfortable with us doing two zones at once, and I was the only councilmember to come out and ask for it. That was not supported by the mayor, city attorney and six other councilmembers.
       The Westside has had strong leadership from hard-working citizens forming the Avenue Task Force, making the city aware of its issues and advocating for more police enforcement. I think that for the Westside to get what it needs, a specific area needs to be determined. Also, the business owners need to realize what they will be forfeiting by getting a no-solicitation zone. They will have to apply for revocable permits for any type of solicitation, including charitable, advertising on public sidewalks, street performers, etc. and they will need the police and citizens to comply.
       I have spoken out many times that the tools from the legislative body were already in place before and that enforcement is the real issue. When the council meeting was held where six of my colleagues voted a quarter of a million dollars for downtown cameras, I voted no. I also questioned the strategic plan for public safety and the problems with lack of enforcement for laws already currently on the books.
       As the legislative body, it is our role to appropriate more funds if needed, and council has been concerned with inadequate police coverage. I was reminded by the mayor that the Police Department falls under his purview and told that efficiencies are being looked at and police coverage is adequate.
       This amended ordinance is not going to do away with people holding signs around the city asking for help. I think even the downtown zone will not see them all excluded as people find a way to get around the law, and I think our police are already extended as much as they can or should be. I'm anxious to see if it is successful and if so will advocate for the second zone to take in an area of the Westside if that is what the Westside wants.

Czelatdko is the District 3 City Councilmember.