Clarity needed on camping ordinance

Only City Council members and authorized staff are allowed to post on this message board.
Jimmy Flannigan
Posts: 85
Joined: Thu Jan 12, 2017 8:44 am

Clarity needed on camping ordinance

Post by Jimmy Flannigan » Wed Sep 25, 2019 5:11 pm

Colleagues & City Manager,

Upon reflecting on last week’s special called meetings, it seemed that while there was some broad debate in certain areas, there was also much agreement that additional clarity was desired for the camping ordinance. It also seemed clear that we’re not going to reach that clarity from the dais. My request is for the City Manager, Chief Manley, Chief Baker, and our other public safety leadership to make clearer for the community that existing laws are enforceable and if any ambiguity exists that cannot be addressed administratively. Only through collaboration with public safety will we find our way forward. This process is not going to work with further top-down mandates from the council.

For the core issue addressing homelessness in our city, I still strongly believe that we should not be providing overly specific direction to our new Homeless Strategy Officer. We let her expertise with the City Manager drive the hard work of getting people off our streets and into safer conditions with the direction and funding approved in the Action Plan to End Homelessness, the actions from June, and the budget approved two weeks ago.

I hope other council members will agree with me here on this thread and with that, the Manager and staff will provide the necessary clarity for the public.

CM Flannigan
Jimmy Flannigan
Council Member, District 6

Paige Ellis
Posts: 30
Joined: Mon Jan 14, 2019 4:37 pm

Re: Clarity needed on camping ordinance

Post by Paige Ellis » Wed Sep 25, 2019 5:34 pm

CM Flannigan - I agree that we should be taking our guidance from our new Homeless Strategy Officer and from law enforcement on what they are able to enforce through the ordinances as they are & to suggest what might need clarification. I would be interested in hearing what the City Manager/HSO/APD can suggest for us to ensure we are pursuing the best path forward for those experiencing homelessness and for public safety. I know there was discussion on the dais about doing a work session before or during our Oct 3rd meeting (at which Natasha said she would not be able to attend), and I feel this is too soon for us to make real gains on this direction. I certainly agree with you on having this input prior to moving forward.

-Paige Ellis
Paige Ellis
Council Member, District 8

Steve Adler
Posts: 357
Joined: Fri Jan 16, 2015 2:12 pm

Re: Clarity needed on camping ordinance

Post by Steve Adler » Thu Sep 26, 2019 3:06 pm

Colleagues (and Manager):

Thank you to my colleagues for the posts, the work being done, and initiating and participating in this conversation concerning our city’s challenge with homelessness. I agree that Council’s prior actions, including but not limited to the many council actions taken especially over the last few years leading to passage of items #184 and #185 in June and reinforced with the dedication of resources as part of the recent budget vote last month, together with the council discussion last week demonstrate a very strong consensus for some level of ordinance clarification and corrective action following from existing laws, and would indicate that the Manager, without any further action by council could, and I believe should do the following:

1. Make very clear to our residents that our law enforcement can and will enforce laws and ordinances prohibiting behavior of individuals of the type that many people testified about and are writing about in emails and on social media. It is against the law for people, for example, to urinate or defecate in public or aggressively confront another. Prohibitions of this kind of behavior should be enforced. Our residents should be encouraged to call 911 when they see laws being violated. They should know if video and other evidence of violations will be considered in enforcement. Importantly, if there are any city ordinance changes that Council needs to make, identify them for us and we’ll act.

2. Enforce our ordinances that prohibit individuals from blocking, impeding access on our streets, as our existing ordinances provide. The Manager and Police Chief could by policy (e.g., training bulletins) adopt interpretations of our existing ordinances so as to enforce existence, for example, of at least 4 feet clearance on sidewalks and 6 feet around entrances. While some of us might go further, it’s clear that there’s consensus for going at least this far. If the Manager believes Council needs to make changes to ensure our existing ordinances are enforced, he needs to let us know and we’ll act.

3. Enforce our ordinances with respect to the greatest and imminent public safety risks and public health hazards. The Manager, working with his staff, could identify the least safe places for people to be – perhaps, for example, camping or sleeping on a median or island too close to cars going by too fast – and conditions where public health might be most threatened by concentrations of trash or hazardous materials. The Manager should keep people safe from the greatest risks by posting signage in locations deemed the most unsafe so as to provide notice to allow enforcement, and he should also accelerate and focus additional sanitation efforts as appropriate.

4. Help the people in the area outside the ARCH move to better and safer places. The area outside the ARCH presents concentrated issues of public safety and health that we need to address for the benefit of ARCH clients, those that gather in that area, and the community generally. Further, we need to foster greater hopefulness in the community by demonstrating that we know how to help people move off our streets. Doing so around the ARCH would provide very visible proof.

Finally, the Manager and his staff, as requested by Council most recently last June, should work with the community, service providers, and stakeholders to present an overall plan of action (short and long-term) to end homelessness in Austin.

If the Manager acted on his own to do as described above, as supported by ordinances and resolutions already passed and as supported in dais conversation, administratively exercising his discretion, there would seem to be less of a need for council deliberation or action on related resolutions or ordinances over the next few weeks and until we can hear back on recommendations for the larger plan.

Steve Adler ... 150204.pdf

Greg Casar
Posts: 151
Joined: Tue Jan 20, 2015 3:20 pm

Re: Clarity needed on camping ordinance

Post by Greg Casar » Fri Sep 27, 2019 11:42 am

Council Members Flannigan and Ellis, and Mayor:

Thanks for posting this and thanks for emphasizing the importance of clarifying the sit/lie/camping ordinances for our community. While there was disagreement about which changes, if any, to make to our ordinances, there was unanimous support for clarity. To the degree that this clarity can be delivered administratively, I believe that the Manager should do so, and I join with you in asking for the Manager to proceed.

I concur that the four areas outlined by the Mayor are important. We should also ensure that community members know about options for contacting EMS, mental health first response, etc., whenever that’s the best option, and we should focus on providing the housing and services that actually address the root issues of homelessness.

Gregorio "Greg" Casar
Council Member District 4

Post Reply