Camping & Obstruction Ordinance; Homelessness Resolution

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Steve Adler
Posts: 393
Joined: Fri Jan 16, 2015 2:12 pm

Camping & Obstruction Ordinance; Homelessness Resolution

Post by Steve Adler » Tue Sep 10, 2019 2:25 pm

Council Member Casar and I want to thank our colleagues, Council Members Tovo and Kitchen, for working together with us as a sub-quorum on the issue of homelessness. We have considerably narrowed issues and generally agreed on direction. Thanks also for the help and suggestions from so many in the community.

We’re anxious for the full dais to actively engage in this work on an ordinance and resolution for council to consider on a specially called meeting on September 18 and possibly September 20th.

Here you can see CM Casar and my preferred ordinance, which diverges in some places from what was posted by CM Kitchen and CM Tovo. We believe our ordinance better strikes a balance of protecting public health and safety, protecting public spaces, and not infringing on the civil rights of individuals in our city. You will see some sections of the ordinance marked with our names where CM Casar and I offer alternative options for language in order to allow for a community discussion on a range of options.

Ordinance: ... 141707.pdf

Resolution: ... 135243.pdf

We hope that at least two other members of our council will reply with offers to co-sponsor so that it is able to be posted.

Between both drafts, and the many ideas that will come from other council members, and from the community, we trust we’ll get to a fair and just result next week.

Delia Garza
Posts: 52
Joined: Thu Jan 15, 2015 9:20 am

Re: Camping & Obstruction Ordinance; Homelessness Resolution

Post by Delia Garza » Wed Sep 11, 2019 9:52 pm

Thank you, Mayor Adler and Council Member Casar, for working on compromise language. I see the language posted here as a starting point for discussion, and any movement further in the direction of the pre-June ordinances would be movement in the wrong direction. I must say I’m disheartened that after City Auditor’s report in 2017, after hours of Council discussions and public testimony over several weeks in June that culminated in a unanimous vote to do the right thing and reform these ordinances, after numerous meetings with advocates and stakeholders--including our constituents who are experiencing homelessness, who are most directly impacted by the decision we were deliberating--that some of us on this Council are choosing a divisive step backward rather than working together to move forward. The progress we’ve made in the last few years for Austinites on criminal justice reforms, expanding social services, and putting equity at the forefront of our decision-making represent the values of those who elected us, and right now we’re discussing an issue at the nexus of all of them. We have so much more work to do in our shared mission to improve this city and I refuse to give up on progress, even when it’s difficult. I trust that with careful deliberation we will be able to avoid regressive policies that harm the most vulnerable people in our city, those who can least advocate for themselves and who need our help the most.

MPT Garza
Mayor Pro Tem, District 2

Kathie Tovo
Posts: 100
Joined: Thu Oct 30, 2014 11:18 am

Re: Camping & Obstruction Ordinance; Homelessness Resolution

Post by Kathie Tovo » Thu Sep 12, 2019 1:41 pm

On June 20, the Council passed Resolution 20190620-184, signaling to the community that, our City Manager would, among other things, be evaluating the ordinances, and that the Council would potentially place additional limitations on camping, sitting, and lying.

[“The City Manager is directed to, as a first step, analyze and recommend additional options for assisting individuals experiencing homelessness who are living unsheltered, . . . . The City Manager shall consider ideas such as the following: Propose reasonable time and place opportunities and limitations on camping, sitting and lying; . . .”]

The City Manager’s memo provided general recommendations, and we are all working to respond to those.

The Mayor and Council Members Casar, Kitchen, and I have worked hard together to build consensus on as many points as possible. We didn’t agree on all provisions; as the Adler/Casar proposed ordinance reflects, they don’t necessarily agree on some provisions, either. That’s OK.

This has been a difficult conversation in our community. It doesn’t need to be one on our dais. We can disagree on elements of the ordinance and whether/how to revise it, and we can do that with respect.

I hope we can all work to create a positive dialogue rather than to frame this Council conversation as a divisive one.

We all share the broader goal of ending homelessness in this city and making sure each and every one of our neighbors has a safe and stable place to sleep. I intend to keep focused on that goal.
Council District 9

Lauren Hartnett
Posts: 33
Joined: Wed May 22, 2019 2:13 pm

Re: Camping & Obstruction Ordinance; Homelessness Resolution

Post by Lauren Hartnett » Thu Sep 12, 2019 3:50 pm

On behalf of Council Member Harper-Madison:


Thank you, Mayor Pro Tem Garza for your thoughtful post and analysis of the proposed ordinance amendments. I share your concerns and appreciate your ability to succinctly and eloquently highlight points of concern. To expand upon what you have highlighted, I am deeply concerned about the lack of consideration for equity that the proposed changes present. I look forward to working alongside the Equity Office and other agencies to bring more substantive data to light in order to build better solutions.

While I recognize that we have a difficult conversation to continue, I do not believe that going back to where we started -- or worse, expanding on the original ordinances -- is the answer.

Statistically, I should not be a council member. My formative experiences, which included generational poverty, domestic violence and homelessness, did not offer me any advantages. People with my background, statistically, have outcomes that repeat cycles of trauma and poverty. When afforded accessible opportunities, by way of necessary social services and housing for those in dire need, individuals and families can beat the odds. I am living proof.

Being the target of public criticism is a part of leadership and I accept that. However, retreating to the status quo ante would only embolden and give undo reinforcement to individuals and organizations who are actively engaged in misinformation campaigns based on fear-based manipulation.
Instead, I encourage us all to stay the course of our commitment to creating pragmatic, effective and compassionate policy to address homelessness.

Of course, clarity is important, and as we discuss the issue further, I look forward to giving our residents and public safety professionals more security in their understanding of the expectations and options established by our actions.

Additionally, I hope we as a body are open to acknowledging that our thoughts on the issue are as diverse as the communities we represent. A difference of opinion does not inherently constitute disrespect.

-Natasha Harper-Madison
Policy Director

Greg Casar
Posts: 167
Joined: Tue Jan 20, 2015 3:20 pm

Re: Camping & Obstruction Ordinance; Homelessness Resolution

Post by Greg Casar » Thu Sep 12, 2019 5:43 pm

All: see below, my office’s hard work attempting to compile a ‘side by side’ comparison chart of the Tovo/Kitchen proposal versus the Adler/Casar proposal. ... 172307.pdf

We did our best to make sure we took language straight from the ordinances, sometimes summarizing sentences for clarity and brevity. The only added words are also for clarity (for example, noting when an activity is already prohibited by current law). Please let us know if we missed anything.

I also did not include a section on medians on the side-by-side, because I believe we may have omitted this section in the Adler/Casar proposal unintentionally. I’ll circle back with the Mayor to post updated language in this area.

I’d like to thank MPT Garza, CM Renteria, and CM Harper Madison for co-sponsoring our proposal, and I look forward to working with you and the entire dais on getting to the right answers. I concur that we must provide clarity in the ordinances without taking steps backward. We did very powerful work together in June to protect public safety, public spaces, and the civil rights of all people.

My greatest points of diversion with the Kitchen/Tovo proposals are as follows:

1) I believe that people should not block reasonable use of sidewalks, and this was the intention of the June ordinance. My language ensures that sidewalks have a four foot clear zone, rather than outright bans on camping/sitting/lying on sidewalks. The same applies to “Safe Routes to Schools.”
2) High pedestrian traffic sidewalks should also be protected by clear zones. I could even concede that they may need a slightly larger clear zone. However, outright bans that aren’t based on clear zones aren’t necessary. If scooters are allowed to sit on a sidewalk without breaking criminal law, why not people? In this case, my proposal also differs from “Adler option.”
3) Being near a freeway or being at an underpass with no crosswalk or sidewalk is far from ideal and presents real safety challenges. But experiencing homelessness itself is already a huge danger. If we push homeless folks by criminal law out from green spaces near freeways or out from disconnected underpasses, then I fear they may be forced to move to even less ideal areas. For this reason, these sections aren’t included in Adler/Casar.
4) The same as above applies to ‘along creeks and rivers’ and ‘in flood buyout areas.’ The Adler/Casar version requires that people be banned from camping in these sorts of areas if there is a real public health or safety hazard identified by the City. Reinstating camping bans in these areas, irrespective of an area-specific public health or safety risk, could move us backwards.

There are other areas of divergence (shelter distance, lying vs. camping on medians), but I believe the 4 above impact the largest areas of the city. Despite the areas of divergence, there are key areas of agreement (marked as “Same” in the document), where we could all agree on basic public space, public health, and public safety rules (many of which existed before June 20th, and many of which are clarifications).

My goal, again, is to ensure the final ordinance is non-discriminatory, does not re-criminalize the mere status of homelessness, and clarifies the spirit of our June 20th meeting by ensuring we protect the public health and safety of all people, regardless of housing status.

I look forward to hearing testimony from the public on these proposals next Wednesday, September 18th and to deliberating with all of you.

Gregorio "Greg" Casar
Council Member District 4

Steve Adler
Posts: 393
Joined: Fri Jan 16, 2015 2:12 pm

Re: Camping & Obstruction Ordinance; Homelessness Resolution

Post by Steve Adler » Sun Sep 15, 2019 10:11 am

Thank you to all of our colleagues who have worked very hard on this difficult issue and are continuing to find things that bring us together in this discussion. I look forward to the Council taking decisive action this week and setting expectations for City staff and the community on what next steps will be for addressing homelessness in Austin.

I also wanted to give some clarity on how I anticipate this week’s meeting schedule to go. Our work session has been moved from Tuesday at 9am to Wednesday at 1pm and it will be relocated to the Council Chambers. I believe we should begin Wednesday with a short work session on the following day’s regular agenda, more giving notice to issues than resolving them. (Let’s do executive session on Thursday.) After the short work session, we move directly into Wednesday’s special called meeting on the four related homeless items. We will take the items up together and combine speaker sign up. We will go into the evening to give an opportunity for speakers, even though some council members may need to leave.

Council members who may be off the dais Wednesday evening may like to participate in the discussion and voting of the item. For this reason, the items are also posted for Friday, when I would anticipate the Council taking a final vote. In between, we will have our regularly scheduled council meeting on Thursday.

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