"The Bum's Rush" and "Street Dreams," April 26

Bum Steer

Councilman Albus Brooks claims that his proposal to ban unauthorized camping does not criminalize homelessness. Mayor Michael Hancock describes allowing people to sleep on the streets as "morally inhumane." However, the wording of the proposed legislation and the logic it entails belies the claim that the ban constitutes a public service rather than a form of persecution.

Westword's reporting exemplifies the contradictions of the ordinance. Kelsey Whipple's interview shows that Brooks never intended to work with outreach providers on legislation that could actually serve the needs of the homeless: "That's not going to happen." Jef Otte's reporting undermines the magnitude and the nature of the problem estimated by Brooks; Otte counted 44 unauthorized campers on the 16th Street Mall compared to Brooks's count of 178. He also challenged the idea that the homeless and their possessions obstruct and endanger public safety and retail activity: "When a few shopping bags contain all your earthly possessions, you want that shit close at hand."  

Why ignore issues of ethical and practical justification? An educated guess: Supporters of the legislation want the homeless to go away. But what could motivate this attitude? Business owners believe that the presence of the homeless interferes with commerce. Middle-class Denverites feel threatened and ashamed by the presence of the homeless on the 16th Street Mall. Homelessness defies simple solutions.

These claims deserve public inspection and deliberation rather than being swept aside by legislation that looks away from the problem it aims to solve. Councilman Brooks and Mayor Hancock sincerely desire to aid the homeless, but the proposal they propose will not fulfill that desire. The real interests and motives for their concern require that this legislation be rejected.

Joshua Kurdys

Denver

I am shocked at how commonly the term "bum" is used in this article. It's a very derogatory term, and Westword would be better served by not perpetuating its use.

Tim Holland

Denver

Ever try Labor Ready or even Ready Express? There are ways to get a job and build up to a regular job. When I was discharged from the service with service-connected disabilities, I was homeless for a while, living in my car in '91. I was able to get part-time work and build up from there without panhandling. Granted, I don't do illicit drugs or drink booze. But it can be done; it just takes willpower to do it.

Steven B.

Denver

It appears that this ordinance is a result of profits coming before people. There were compromises/amendments on the table that would have ensured that expanded services for the homeless were present before the ordinance was passed. But at every juncture, it seems that Albus Brooks was not interested in compromise because the votes were there to get it passed as is. I can't speak for Brooks's intentions, but the lack of openness and seeming arrogance that came through in Kelsey Whipple's article really has made me lose faith in the progressive, inspirational leader I thought he was. I'm most concerned about the hundreds of homeless youth who may be further at risk to being trafficked if they are forced to move into secluded places and off of the well-lit 16th Street Mall or other central locations. There are not a lot of shelter beds for youth at all. Youth should not have to sleep on the street, but they also shouldn't have to become more vulnerable to traffickers by a city ordinance.

Sarah Hidey

Denver

Fascinating confessional by Jef Otte on his own bout with alcoholism and homelessness; glad to count him as a survivor, his wit is greatly appreciated. Homelessness is very real, and the issue of how to deal with it is indeed complex, as Councilman Brooks points out.  Unfortunately, and I hope Brooks will read this comment, his statement that "the problem is that we have created a society that accepts handouts and doesn't take opportunities and wants to continue to get those" is parroted by many, regularly, and needs to be abandoned.

The void between the haves and have-nots here in the U.S. is substantially larger than in places like Kenya (Brooks's mangled next point) and other developing areas of the world where there is at least a sense of community from those with nothing right up through the little shopkeepers and street vendors who are managing to survive. Suburban isolation is responsible for the convenient "society that accepts handouts" lack of depth of understanding. Sure, there are people passing through substance abuse. But the idea that "young travelers" are camping out downtown shows we are so screwed up we don't have a recognized culture of hostels or an art quarter (another physical example of suburban-isolation mentality and the economic regulations it has spawned).  If people could form unlicensed street bazaars, were allowed to make and sell crafts not just on organized holidays or cutesy weekends, we might begin to have this continuity of community that the Starbucks culture (nobody owns their own coffee shop anymore; how screwed up is that?) is so horribly afraid of.  

Occupy everywhere!

Paul Berry

Denver      

"The Columbine Effect," Alan Prendergast, March 22

Taking Aim

With regard to Greg Reck's letter in the April 5 issue expressing his desire that recreational guns be outlawed by crooked politicians, I want to ask him who, or what, if he got his way, would protect us from these same crooked politicians? He says he's too young to remember Columbine, therefore he's too young to remember Tiananmen Square or Kent State.

J. Charest Golden

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T Marshall
T Marshall

The Parking Issue in Denver

Why we need to solve this problem for the sake of the cars.

Like many people, I live and work in downtown Denver. Everyday I walk by countless cars that are parked illegally on our streets. Cars circle for hours looking for spaces. Valuable police resources are taxed by the constant need to address these issues. Private lot owners must hire outside tow companies to address the cars parked illegally in their lots. On a recent evening, my wife and I took a walk down the streets of downtown Denver near our home. In just a few hours we counted dozens and dozens of cars illegally parked on our streets. I realize that past Mayors have taken several initiatives to address the parking issue in Denver. We commend them for their efforts. However, despite those efforts, there are just as many if not more, illegally parked cars on the streets of Denver and there comes a time when you simply have to say enough is enough.

Today I am putting forward a proposal for a parking ban in downtown Denver. This proposal will make all parking illegal in the city of Denver. As a resident of downtown, I am convinced that people are coming from all over the state, if not from the entire Rocky Mountain region, and parking in our community. This is making it nearly impossible for the good citizens who live here to find a parking place. The parking ban would make it illegal to park anywhere in the downtown area. This important first step will go a long way to what will eventually make our city one that we can all be proud of and a model for others to follow.

As caring people we realize that this will be a difficult transition and we are truly committed to solving the problem and implementing this parking ban in a compassionate manner. Before any tickets are issued or arrests made, Police will be instructed to ask each illegally parked car to move on and give them the opportunity to move along to alternative parking. Our police force has promised that they will only give tickets "as a last resort." While there is no funding at this time for alternative parking, we commit ourselves to locating resources to develop sufficient funding to create additional alternative parking. We will work with local parking providers to develop programs to ensure that the parking needs of each and every car will be met. We must however, move forward. Speaking frankly, I'm convinced that many of these cars have the resources and ability to park elsewhere. It helps no one to allow these illegally parked vehicles to remain on our streets. This law will finally allow us do act, addressing this important issue.

I constantly hear from people who live downtown, the business owners who are trying to make a living and from the tourists who visit our city, choosing to spend their tourist dollars which are so vital to our economy. Here is what some of them had to say. "I have had cars parked right in front of my business all day long," said one local business owner, "and no one else could get to the spot to get to my business. And I don't want to sound bad or anything but not only was the car in the way, but... it wasn't an attractive car at all. It had rust spots and everything. It was disgusting. It was really bad for my business." A woman from Iowa wrote, "I visited Denver several months back and I was simply appalled at the traffic, the pollution caused by the cars that were everywhere. We were trying to cross the street and a car nearly hit my daughter! I will never come to Denver again." The fact is that not only are cars parking illegally in downtown Denver, they also regularly run red lights and have even caused deaths. This is simply no longer acceptable. This ban is not the "criminalization" of parking. It is simply the first step in moving forward to address this difficult problem. Finally, and most importantly, this ban is not about politics or money. It truly is about the cars themselves. They are left on the streets in the blazing sun and through the freezing winter. Many are abandoned on the street in a very unkind and undignified manner. What kind of community are we if we treat our cars this way? This parking ban will be implemented compassionately and all cars will have an appropriate place to park... we promise, someday when we find funding. For now however, we must act and ban parking on all streets of Denver. So we encourage you to support the parking ban. Do it for the cars.

Mark Smith
Mark Smith

I'm going camping with my family and few friends. What are some fun ideas for going camping? Thatsnotcamping.com helped a lot to get the best campground.

 
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