Our View: Sidewalk scenes

Mayor should relent on repeal

September 26, 2012 

The Anchorage Assembly voted 7-4 Tuesday night to repeal part of the city's sidewalk ordinance passed last year. It was a sensible act of amendment, because it shouldn't be against the law to simply sit on a downtown sidewalk. Creating a nuisance? Obstructing safe passage? Those are different stories. Move along or face a fine, Jack. You don't have a right to make life difficult or dangerous for the people around you; you don't have the right to be a health hazard.

But if all you're doing is sitting on a downtown sidewalk in June reading a book, eating a reindeer hot dog or holding a sign of protest, you should be left in peace to do so. People have been doing this in Anchorage since Anchorage has had sidewalks.

Both Dick Traini and Debbie Ossiander changed their votes on the issue. Ossiander came closest to what was wrong with the ordinance when she said the sidewalk sitting ban part of it just didn't feel right.

Mayor Dan Sullivan, who was the driving force behind this ordinance in 2011, has promised to veto the partial repeal. He should reconsider.

What's left of the ordinance should suffice to deal with the kind of problem that triggered Sullivan's action in the first place -- the downtown sidewalk protest of homeless man and convicted sex offender Jon Martin. Nuisance and safety measures remain in place. If anyone abuses the freedom of the sidewalk, off they go.

But the sidewalk sitting ban? That crosses a line of liberty, and that's what doesn't set well with Ossiander and six of her colleagues. May the mayor, upon reflection, come to the same conclusion.

BOTTOM LINE: Mayor should gracefully accept partial repeal of sidewalk ordinance; necessary protections still in place.

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