City Leaders Approve Panhandling Ban

Colorado Springs City Council voted Tuesday to approve a ban on panhandling and other solicitation in parts of Colorado Springs including the downtown area.

The 8-in-favor to one opposed vote took place after hours of discussion and public comment from a large audience in council chambers.

Many in favor of the much talked about ordinance are downtown business owners.

Director of the Downtown Partnership Hannah Parsons read a letter on one business owner's behalf. "More fundamentally," she read, "We should ask what should our city be? We believe it should be clean, inviting and interesting. People loitering on street corners asking for money are making our city uninviting and should be discouraged."

In opposition were a number of people, including some who live and work in Old Colorado City and think this ordinance will force the issue further into their neighborhoods.

There are those who pledge to fight the decision.

"When you have Acacia Park involved you've got a bunch of street musicians and a bunch of people having festivals where immediately all forms of fund raising are banned and that's why the ACLU on the state level is so adamant we've got to file suit against this kind of thing," said Loring Wirbel, Co-Chair of the Pikes Peak ACLU.

Provisions in the ordinance include a ban on solicitation in downtown Colorado Springs. As far as solicitation city wide the ordinance creates a mandatory distance of 20 feet from the front door of a business. A second ordinance approved Tuesday extends the ban to state highways within the city, to include Highway 24 on the city's west side.

Anyone caught in violation of the ordinance will first get a verbal warning and explanation of the rules. A second encounter will usually mean a written warning. Further infractions could lead to fines and possibly time in jail.

Mayor Steve Bach said on a larger scale, his goal is to help the homeless get back on their feet, not just move them elsewhere. The mayor says he plans to ask businesses to help by hiring some of these people.

The ordinance will go through a second reading on November 27. If the vote is similar to Tuesday's the ordinance will take effect on December 2. Council members also agreed to re-visit the ordinance in five months to determine if it needs further review or modification.

You can trust 11 News to let you know what the mayor and city council decide today.