City Council toughens law against sitting on downtown sidewalks
4-3 vote pitted business against homeless
The Spokane City Council on Monday night voted 4-3 to toughen an ordinance that makes it illegal to sit or lie on sidewalks in the downtown area during business hours.
The vote fell along a familiar political line with council members Nancy McLaughlin, Mike Fagan, Mike Allen and Steve Salvatori casting yes votes.
Council President Ben Stuckart was joined by council members Amber Waldref and Jon Snyder in voting no.
The controversial measure drew nearly two hours of testimony from about three dozen citizens.
The revised law makes illegal to sit on planters or other sidewalk fixtures.
The change also makes sitting on sidewalks illegal from 7 a.m. and 9 p.m.
Monday’s ordinance expands the hours to run from 6 a.m. to midnight.
Officers are given discretion in enforcement, and are encouraged to refer people subject to enforcement to shelters or other social programs.
Those in favor of the law said it will help police get control of intimidation and threats of innocent citizens coming into contact with people hanging out downtown.
Opponents said the law will criminalize homelessness. They urged using other measures such as diversion, shelters and treatment to curb the problem.