The New Era - All about Sweet Home since 1929

Putting proposed ordinances to the test

 

September 18, 2019



The City Council is considering several ordinances, that range from pointless to effective and even to good, described in our stories on page 1 and 16.

Traffic Safety

This proposal would prohibit people in vehicles from handing items through their windows to pedestrians – in the name of traffic safety.

This sounds serious. Pedestrians ought not be in the roadway, right? The ordinance, which is in use in other cities, addresses panhandling from the vehicle side. It prevents folks in cars from handing cash out the window to beggars in locations such as Lancaster Drive and Mission Street in Salem, a popular panhandling spot.

We don’t have that problem here. We recall earlier this year seeing a compassionate passenger call over a homeless guy sitting at Speedee Mart to hand him some cash, but he wasn’t panhandling. If it’s a problem in Sweet Home, we don’t know it.

This proposal would prohibit firefighters from passing the boot, a popular form of “panhandling” that goes for a good cause. Of course, the City Council can give firefighters a waiver, as other towns apparently do. Then it will just underscore a hypocrisy and completely obliterate the main argument for this ordinance – that it is about traffic safety.

Meanwhile, we don’t think handing a buck or anything else out a window when traffic is stopped at 15th and Main would be that serious of an issue. At the rate it happens in Sweet Home, it’s about a dangerous as passing the boot.

Livability Ordinance

The council is looking to Corvallis for ideas to update its nuisance ordinance. Outside of interposing the council and the city between landlords and tenants, something the state already does quite well, the Corvallis ordinance that has our leaders’ attention is already largely covered under our existing laws.

City officials are going to propose ideas they think would be useful in Sweet Home’s nuisance ordinance. We hope they and the council remember that some requirements could be expensive, depending on how far-reaching they are. The council should be careful not to further drive up housing costs at a time when we already face a housing shortage.

We are encouraged and grateful that the council has lost interest in regulating and inspecting the the interior of private residences after considering that idea, part of the Corvallis ordinance, in 2016. While we are concerned about the stories we hear about filth and downright hazardous conditions in some homes, stepping on constitutional principles in an attempt to fix that is stepping too far.

Noise Ordinance

Then there’s the noise ordinance. For the city and people who care, this is a way to control obnoxiously loud people without arresting them. That’s a fair argument. Arresting fools for disorderly conduct, just for being loud, is a bit extreme. Adding the human voice to the noise ordinance gives officers another option in dealing with the chronically irresponsible or insensitive.

Exclusion Ordinance

We have mixed feelings. We see value in banishing those who repeatedly commit crimes in our downtown area. Like Councilor Cortney Nash, if we do this, we wonder if it wouldn’t be better to include the entire town.

We recognize the draconian nature of that idea too and think courts would probably be right to strike down such broad application. Perhaps instead of a single area, we could create several zones, including residential areas, and banish repeat offenders from different parts of the city as they commit their crimes.

In principle, we like this proposal, but again it threatens core values of our nation: liberty and the corollary idea that we are innocent until proven guilty.

As proposed, the ordinance relies on arrests, not convictions. An arrest is not a conviction. It’s essentially the first step of accusation, and it denies the basic concept that we are innocent until proven guilty. We think this ordinance – along with the nuisance property ordinance – would be better based on actual convictions.

Yes, it takes longer. But the process would still eventually inconvenience the folks we want to inconvenience. It would just take a little patience to wait the time it takes to let the justice system work.

We think the council should approach it that way and find a method to protect all areas of town.

Side-by-sides

The council is moving forward on an ordinance to allow the use of side-by-side ATVs on city streets.

We think it’s a terrific idea. If these vehicles are equipped with proper safety gear that we have to have on cars, lights, brakes, signals, etc., there’s really no reason why this option can’t be opened for ATV owners. We wonder whether other classes of vehicles might be appropriate.

The vehicles are not allowed on state highways except to cross, but we think the state should look at allowing them in low-speed downtown areas. Just like those motorized bikes we see.

Urination and defecation

’Nuff said.

Seriously. How complicated is this?

State courts have ruled relieving oneself on the streets isn’t littering, and now cities have to pass an ordinance specifically outlawing urination and defecation in public places. Perhaps our state government and courts really are trying to create the next San Francisco sewer.

We recognize the difficulty it causes the homeless, but they really shouldn’t be doing this kind of business on the sidewalks. We need to find an answer for them to help them avoid this health hazard for their sake and all of ours.

 
 

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