Denver Direct: You Can’t Believe Everything You Read (2)

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

You Can’t Believe Everything You Read (2)

Was located between York and Josephine at 17th Ave.

At a public meeting of the City Park West Neighborhood Association, during a discussion of the homeless people panhandling at 17th and York, a City Park official made the statement that “those people will be removed”. Shortly thereafter, these two signs appeared on the large traffic island which separates York and Josephine between 17th and 18th avenues.

Because I have gotten to know a homeless man who often stands on one of those corners, I asked him what the effect had been. He reported that he had stepped off the 300 feet and was now in compliance with the sign. I started to wonder what the definition of “Park Property” was and if it included the median, in which case the 300 feet would include where he was standing. So I decided to look it up.

I had heard that City Council had passed new ordinances governing the “safety issues” of panhandling on busy streets. I looked up the city ordinances online but could not find one that mentioned 300 feet and panhandling. I had also noticed that unlike many city signs, this one did not refer to an ordinance by number, and that these two signs appeared to be unique, as I could not find any others anywhere else around the periphery of City Park.

So …. I emailed my City Council person, whose staff had been helpful in the past. They referred me to a District 2 police phone number. That number had been disconnected, and anyway the sign was actually in Police District 6. So I called them.

The police officer who answered the phone had a hearty laugh when I asked the question. “The lawmakers expect us to know?”, he chortled. “They’re the ones who make up these things. How are we supposed to know.” He suggested that I call Parks and Recreation.

Which I did. After a few calls I reached the office of Mr. Ron Sanders, in charge of Regulations at Parks and Rec. I explained the situation and asked if it could refer to:

Sec. 39-11. Huckstering prohibited.
It shall be unlawful to offer any goods, services or thing for sale within any park, parkway, mountain park or other recreational facility, or on the streets and sidewalks within three hundred (300) feet of the boundary of the same, without first having obtained a license or privilege so to do in the manner and pursuant to terms and conditions fixed by the mayor’s cabinet.

which was the only one I could find that mentions 300 feet. Sanders agreed that panhandling was not huckstering. He said he would check into it.

A week later I received a phone message from Christopher, Operations Manager of City Park, who said that the sign referred to:

Sec. 54-548. Solicitation on street or highway medians.
(a) The purpose of this section is to prevent dangers to persons and property, to prevent delays, and to avoid interference with the traffic flow. Roadways that have center medians often are designed to deal with specific traffic flow problems. The presence of pedestrians on center medians poses dangers to both pedestrians and traffic and interferes with the traffic planning process.
(b) It shall be unlawful for any person to solicit employment, business, contributions, or sales of any kind, or collect monies for the same, from the occupant of any vehicle travelling (sic) upon any street, road or highway when such solicitation or collection involves the person performing the activity to be located upon any median area which separates traffic lanes for vehicular travel in opposite directions.
(c) The penalty for the first conviction under this section shall not exceed twenty-five dollars ($25.00) and the maximum penalty for additional violations shall not exceed fifty dollars ($50.00).

This didn’t seem to fit either. Later, Mr. Sanders called me again and explained that after consultation with City Attorney Patrick Wheeler, it was determined that the signs were in error and would be removed.

When I checked two days later, the signs were gone. I wonder how many people were ticketed and/or fined based on these bogus signs. Clearly this had been an abuse of power targeted at certain individuals.