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City Council Bill Proposes Fines for People Who Obstruct Sidewalks and Streets in the Loop

Fines could be as high as $1,000

The City Council on Monday night took up a bill that would address the large number of teens in the Loop.

Bill 9112, if passed, would be an ordinance that would amend Chapter 9 of the city municipal code, removing a section that currently pertains to panhandling, and replacing it with a new section, 9.08.045, entitled  “obstructing or interfering with the use of sidewalks and streets.”

Bill 9112 states that it would become illegal for people to assemble, or loiter, or walk, on any sidewalk or the street in a manner that would interfere with the use of the sidewalk or street. A person found in violation could receive a fine of as much as $1,000.

Earlier in the council meeting, during the citizen participation section of the agenda, Joe Edwards, owner of Blueberry Hill talked about the curfew. University City has said it will re-consider lowering the curfew hours. Currently, people under 17 and have to be off the streets in the Loop by 9pm. There had been talk of pushing back the curfew to as early as 6pm for some teenagers.

Edwards said that 6pm was too early for the curfew, and suggested making “two reasonable small steps” of adjusting the curfew by 1 hour and 1 year.

“Six o’clock is way too early, and that eliminates the opportunity for a lot of good teenagers to enjoy the Loop,” Edwards said. 

Edwards thought that moving the curfew back one hour from 9pm, to 8pm and increasing the curfew age from 16 to 17 would alleviate the problems with unruly youth in the Loop.

Edwards said that it would be beneficial to not have 17-year-olds after 8 o’clock, “that could be doing other things.” He said  that by eliminating 17-year-olds in the Loop, it would reduce the 18 and 19 year-olds that were “predatory in nature” from hanging around.

Edwards said changing the curfew from 9pm to 8pm would make it easier and safer for the police, because the curfew would still be during daylight hours. Changing it by one hour, he stated would not penalize the good teenagers that are in the Loop.

Ed Reggi, a civil rights activist, and City of St. Louis resident had concerns about the wording of bill 9112 and addressed those concerns during the meeting.

Reggi said that sidewalks, streets, and parks have been traditional venues for public and civil discourse, and that the proposed ordinance could hinder people’s right to assembly on public sidewalk, because of the wording. The Supreme Court, he said, had said that.

“I am totally opposed to a $1,000 fine for someone who is ‘blocking the sidewalk,’” Reggi said in his comments.

He said after the meeting that ordinances like this “chip away at our civil liberties.”

The bill’s first reading was at Monday night’s council meeting. A second reading will occur at the May 9th city council meeting.

Paul Gill April 26, 2011 at 06:06 PM
Certainly issuing fines is one way to attack the issue. However, this type of suggestion would seem like a last resort instead of the first idea. I guess I'd like to see the problem solving suggestions that lost out to this one.
Bryson Gerard April 30, 2011 at 05:20 PM
So what happens to the musicians busking on the loop? $1,000 fines for me, Ravenwolf, that elderly gentleman who plays the trumpet, and all the others that make the loop creative, fun, interesting and LIVELY. Yup. THAT will make the loop a better place.
Ed Reggi May 14, 2011 at 03:59 PM
Please support our online petition against Bill 9112. http://www.change.org/petitions/tell-university-city-to-use-current-laws-before-they-ban-standing-on-sidewalks
Elliot Wilson May 14, 2011 at 07:43 PM
Up to $1,000 for obstructing a sidewalk? That seems like a remarkable affront on personal liberties. Every now and then I wish that people wouldn't congregate on the sidewalk when I'm trying to walk around the Loop, but that doesn't mean that I would support law with such a tremendous fine ceiling, especially when the most obvious solution -- store-owners or police officers asking the group to move -- requires no legislation. As a popular shopping area and cultural center, the Loop attracts a lot of advocacy groups and, occasionally, protests, not to mention lots of teenagers just looking for a place to hang out. All of these can certainly cause inconveniences, but we should not take such drastic action to eliminate their ability to come to the Loop. I also am not comfortable with any law that could in theory be applied to large lines outside of the Tivoli (or any business) or to crowds watching a talented street musician, performer, etc.

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