Ordinances address misbehavior downtown

More behaviors in more places can get people expelled from downtown area when ordinances passed by the Ashland City Council on Nov. 17 become effective Dec. 17.

"We're giving the (police) chief and his crew a few more tools to corral people who are behaving badly," Councilor Pam Marsh said during discussion of one of the ordinances, "but if you're not (behaving badly), enjoy the downtown."

Two of the ordinances dealt with animals downtown. One prohibits leading livestock through downtown without a special permit, as has been done in the past year; the other requires dogs to have a license to not behave in ways deemed "public nuisances," including obstructing a sidewalk so there's less than 6 feet left to pass, menacing passersby and running at large.

A third ordinance added two violations to a list of those that can get a person banned from downtown: failing to have a license or certificate of rabies vaccination for a dog and use of marijuana in a public place.

Current violations that can get a person, if they accumulate three or more within six months in the city's "enhanced law enforcement area," covering most of the downtown area, banned from that area are: "scattering rubbish" (including public urination or defecation); unnecessary noise; not keeping control of a dog; consumption of alcohol in public; and possessing an open container of alcohol in public.

A judge decides if the ban will last from a minimum of three months to a maximum one year. People can also be banned for multiple failures to appear to answer to charges.

The new items added to the list by the council are failure to have a dog license or rabies certificate for a dog and use of marijuana in a public place.

The fourth ordinance expands that enhanced law enforcement area to include the Bill Patton Garden by Lithia Park to the south and west of the Oregon Shakespeare Campus.

Three of the ordinances passed by votes of 4-1, with Marsh, Rich Rosenthal, Michael Morris and Stefani Seffinger in favor and Carol Voisin opposed. Greg Lemhouse missed the meeting and the mayor, John Stromberg, does not vote unless there's a tie.

Voisin voted in favor of the expansion of the enhanced law enforcement area, passing it 5-0, and against the other ordinances.

The enforcement/expulsion area, she said, after noting she'd discussed it with police Chief Tighe O'Meara, "should have been included in the initial exclusion zone, so I'm going to support it."

As to her opposition to the other ordinances, she said, "I do not see how any of these ordinances .. are going to affect what I'm heard from those people who are complaining about the travelers or the transients, this is just not going to affect them. I don't think we've dealt with the real issues."

She asked for more dialogue with "the 90 percent who are not the bad characters," and Stromberg agreed to work with her on that.

Stromberg also added that the ordinances have been "in the works for a while" and it's partly coincidental they came up for a vote while the travelers issue has come to be front and center in the city.

Former Councilor Dennis Slattery addressed the issue during public comment during the meeting, saying "We better take it seriously, because our life and our community hang in the balance ... it is about common decency ... as a community we need to say abusive language of any kind should not be tolerated in this community."

Email Tidings Editor Bert Etling at betling@dailytidings.com, call him at 541-631-1313 and follow him at www.twitter.com/betling.

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