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Ban on Public Assemblies in Public Parking Lots at City Council Next Tuesday
by Robert Norse ( rnorse3 [at] hotmail.com )
Thursday Oct 4th, 2007 11:21 AM
Vice-Mayor Ryan Coonerty's latest attack on the Constitution is a new local law. It will expand a bad law passed last year to ban lingering in a city parking garage. Coonerty's expansion will ban all those not parking a car or auto from all downtown city parking garages and now all downtown city parking lots. It will be coming to City Council for a first reading on the afternoon of Tuesday October 9th. soon after 3 PM. No more Food Not Bombs or Drum Circles on Wednesday. Cars, yes. human interaction, no.
For more details including some documents and the staff report, see:"Zooming At You: Public Assembly Ban in City Parking Lots: http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2007/09/21/18448912.php

For some reason the City's website does not have active links to the relevant documents (such as the text of the modified law itself, the staff report, etc.). A Downtown Commission member commented on this at the last meeting, but apparently the staff haven't seen fit to fix it yet.

Last year Ryan Coonerty's Downtown Association-pleasing "No Loitiering in the Parking Lots" law got downsized to include only the parking garages. It was still a major seizure of public space (not only for the homeless--who it was really targeting for staying overnight in garages). This year's grab (in the name of giving the police "more tools") is even bigger.

For the last year it has been illegal to walk into a parking garage (or lot #9) unless walking directly through unless you have a car or bike parked there. Even in that ase, you must leave within 15 minutes (cannot, for instance, sit in your car and read, chat with a friend, etc.).

The local ACLU came out against it (Rotkin apparently was absent) , and only one parking lot (the one across from the homeless meal and next to the Catalyist--Parking Lot #9) was included.

I've played some discussion and tape of this law in two recent FRSC shows. I interview the owner of Bad Ass Coffee, the only merchant to publicly oppose the law: http://www.radiolibre.org/brb/brb070927.mp3

There's scattered discussion of the proposed law at http://www.radiolibre.org/brb/brb070930.mp3

And I will be discussing and archiving the subject with greater focus tonight (10-5) on Free Radio (to be archived in a few days at http://www.radiolibre.org/brb/brb070930.mp3). Tune in to discuss the issue 6-8 PM at 101.1 FM http://www.freakradioorg 427-3772.



More on the twisted progress of this suspension of the Constitution in parking lots:

The promised "6-month" review of the more limited Parking Garage law never came.

Even this Garage law should have been sunsetted since, in my view, it actually makes people less safe (when there are fewer people around, violent crime, car theft, etc. becomes more likely). But the Downtown Commission gave NO consideration to eliminating this bad law.

The Downtown Commission did initially give the expansion to this law a thumbs down in May when police (rather arrogantly or negligently) failed to provide any new statistics showing any crime problem in the parking lots they want to remove from public assembly use.

But last week (September 28th), the Downtown Commission, faced with a big turnout from Keith Holtaway's Downtown Association and the SCPD brass, took a dive. They voted 6-1 (Sheila Coonerty dissenting) to forward this law to City Council.

One of their reasons was that some "stakeholders" like downtown merchants, two city councilmembers (Coonerty and Lynn Robinson), and (silent but looming) top cops showed up.

The shadowy Downtown Improvement Task Force, which meets behind closed doors (merchants invited, public excluded), was a prime mover here in its push to make the downtown more "safe and appealing" though noone from this group gave an explicit report or any public testimony. They apparently keep no audio tape of their meetings. It's a matter of dispute as to whether they keep minutes (Councilmember Robinson, a regular participant, said she didn't know).

To see the current law (which presumably will be similar to the new law except it will include all city parking lots, not just #9) go to: http://nt2.scbbs.com/cgi-bin/om_isapi.dll?clientID=445173470&infobase=procode-1&softpage=Browse_Frame_Pg

City Council members should be called at 420-5020 or e-mailed to demand consideration of this law, doubling the amount of "forbidden space" downtown, until the staff complies wil a real six month review (ie. giving us the actual crime stats in the parking garages as well as the crime stats in other parking lots, as well as the parking attendant logs in the lots).

None of this was made available at the Downtown Commission hearing (hearings, actually, the police had three separate opportunities).

Testify against it by phone, e-mail, or snail mail,but I suspect only the very real possibility of massive civil disobedience and/or lawsuit will stop this freight train.
It's Item #20 on the City Council agenda--the last action item of the evening, after Oral Communiations and the Transportation Commission Mission St. Recommendations.

If you can't come down, call City Council at 420-5020 to tell the Council the 100 things they'll be banning downtown when they close the lots.