City council repeals part of anti-panhandling ordinance

Hannah Ditzenberger

In response to the American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit against the city, Fort Collins City Council unanimously voted to repeal part of the city’s anti-panhandling ordinance.

According to the city, panhandling is still prohibited under the following circumstances:

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  • Intimidating, threatening, coercive or obscene panhandling conduct that causes the subject to reasonably fear for his or her safety
  • Panhandling using fighting words
  • Knowingly touching or grabbing the person solicited
  • Panhandling in a manner that obstructs the passage of the person or requires him or her to take evasive action to avoid physical contact

However, seven provisions, which included panhandling 30 minutes before sunset and sunrise, in parking structures and within 100 feet of a bus stop, were removed. 

“City staff will move forward to evaluate policy options and ways to address panhandling in light of the legal issues and will be actively seeking public input as part of this process,” the city’s press release stated. “Once this further review has been completed, staff will work with the city’s attorneys to develop and present for council consideration updated provisions related to panhandling conduct.”

Fort Collins resident Cheryl Distaso said she is glad that the city took action. However, she questions the necessity of having any anti-panhandling ordinance.

“The parts that they are concerned about, in terms of aggressive behavior … are dealt with in our charter,” Distaso said. “So it’s a bit redundant to have a panhandling ordinance.”

Distaso works for Fort Collins Community Action Network, an organization that addresses human rights issues in the city. Through her work, Distaso said she has met homeless individuals who feel harassed by the ordinance. 

“A lot of people I know who are homeless and panhandling were very much intimidated by the whole enforcement part of the ordinance,” Distaso said. “It targets and criminalizes the must vulnerable in our community.”

The ACLU filed the lawsuit Feb. 10, saying that the city’s original ordinance was unconstitutional and restricted free speech. ACLU declined to comment on the city’s decision.

Collegian Diversity Beat and Entertainment Reporter Hannah Ditzenberger can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter at @h_ditzenberger