City administration tested with new ordinance

The apocalypse was predicted for the city of Grand Junction prior to last week’s City Council meeting — real Old Testament stuff, as they say in the movies:

“Fire and brimstone coming down from the sky! Rivers and seas boiling! Forty years of darkness! Earthquakes, volcanoes! The dead rising from the grave! Human sacrifice! Dogs and cats, living together! Mass hysteria!”

Actually, none of that happened, although it seemed to have been predicted if municipal authorities passed an aggressive panhandling ordinance.

Well, I should point out that dogs and cats are living together and there has been some hysteria, but fairly limited, after the council voted unanimously to institute a panhandling ordinance that addressed aggressive behavior.

Dire consequences and threats of legal action have always been leveled toward any governmental entity that sought to limit the activities of the increasing numbers of whiskered wanderers who have been frequenting a city, and now the county, over the last three or four years.

Neither disastrous outcomes nor successful legal action seems likely in the face of the ordinance approved by council members.

The issue has always been one of free speech, which has been enlarged by many anti-ordinance factions to include fairly bold and disruptive behavior. While conduct can be constituted as speech, in some situations, it is much more difficult to describe in constitutionally protected ways.

Outside of conduct manifesting some form of political expression, which by its nature carries a higher level of constitutional protection, actions of a physical or disruptive nature are usually regarded as fair game for reasonable regulation.

The ordinance that Grand Junction has adopted is modeled on those of other municipalities, which have withstood judicial examination. I have seen a number of these ordinances and have pestered government officials in the past to take a look at them in the hopes that they might impose a bit more civility in the manner that individuals can, rightfully, ask others for financial assistance.

I don’t think it correct or legal to limit a person’s ability to speak on practically any topic, including asking strangers for money. The issue arises in terms of manner.

Intimidating, threatening or following an individual who has refused a request is conduct that can, and should be, regulated.

Interfering with traffic and putting oneself and others at risk by approaching vehicles on roadways does not fall within the realm of protected speech. These are the sorts of things addressed by the new ordinance.

Until Mesa County adopts a similar version as a county ordinance, the nature of illegal behavior will change by crossing 29 Road.

It remains to be seen whether the proper authorities and appointed public officials will zealously enforce the city’s ordinance.

It’s a good test of the city’s leadership.

The city of Grand Junction has just added a new director of public works, and I hope that will engender a thorough examination of the department and readjustment. The present city manager, Rich Englehart, needs to engage in the same exercise.

Englehart’s occupancy of the city manager’s chair is considered to be wobbly by some observers.

The best cure for wobbly tenure is leadership. Now seems a time for leadership and re-examination of department heads’ commitment to this and other policies of the present City Council.

Rick Wagner writes more about politics at his blog, The War on Wrong.


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I would love for you to show who hysterically predicted the wrath of God would strike for the passage of a panhandling ordinance.  The ACLU on occasion does make legal noise against these efforts, but usually saves their funds for more pressing issues.
I couldn’t grasp any cohesion in your rhetoric till the last few paragraphs, when the true purpose of your “opinion” finally appeared.  Your shaky absurd connection in your “writing” from panhandling to an attack on Rich Englehart is laughable, and taints the idea of professional integrity.
What is really funny…you and Sam Susuras were both on the Airport Authority Board during the questionable tenure of Tippetts.  Did you and Susuras not believe you had a fiduciary and professional responsibility as board members?
The timing of this “opinion” piece and the final real focus, namely setting up a public question of Rich Englehart’s professional status, is the same veiled attempt to bring attention to yourself as you did when Mesa County Attorney Lyle Dechant left.  Are you looking for a new job?
Remember, “What goes around, comes around.”  Professional integrity is an altruistic and noble pursuit.  Too many of our leaders in this county fail to remember “community first.”

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