Colorado Springs City Council tonight passed a ban on panhandling downtown, which will go into effect in a matter of days. KRCC’s Liz Ruskin reports.
The ordinance passed 8-1, with councilman Val Snider the lone no vote. It bans all forms of panhandling on public property in a 12-block area of downtown. Proponents of the ban say panhandlers have made downtown an uncomfortable place to visit. But opponents say soliciting money is a protected free speech right. Loring Wirbel of the local chapter of the ACLU says it doesn’t matter that the ban is limited to a particular zone.
"The ACLU, on a local and state level is fully committed to challenging this ordinance as long as there’s any concept of a total solicitation-free zone involved in it."
City Attorney Chris Melcher said the ordinance is modeled after another city’s panhandling ban which has survived court challenges. He said it will not apply to political leafleteers or signature drives, but it does mean the Salvation Army can’t station bellringers on downtown streets. Mayor Steve Bach said a hotel owner offered to let them set up on his property.