AURORA | Mayor Mike Coffman’s urban camping ban proposal has been couched for at least six months after the measure failed on a tie vote Monday evening.
Council members Francoise Bergan, Marsha Berzins, Curtis Gardner, Dave Gruber and Coffman voted in favor of the proposal, which Coffman argued met legal muster because it would not direct city staff to abate homeless encampments unless there was enough shelter space to house the occupants of a camp.
Throughout weeks of debate over the measure opponents have argued that the proposal wouldn’t change anything in Aurora, as there isn’t enough existing shelter space.
Council members Juan Marcano, Allison Hiltz, Alison Coombs, Crystal Murillo and Angela Lawson voted against the ordinance.
Per city council rules, an ordinance cannot return to the floor for a vote for six months after a tie vote. By the time Coffman is able to re-introduce the measure a new city council will be at the dais, possibly changing the course of the proposal.
“I don’t want to see folks living out on the street either, and I believe this a point we all agree on.” Marcano said during the vote, addressing public commenters who cited health and safety concerns about the camps.
“Where we don’t agree is that a ban actually addresses these issues. It doesn’t and if you believe otherwise, I implore you to go to Denver and see what their ban has achieved over the last decade, which is to say, ‘nothing.’ There are still giant camps full of trash and waste and all kinds of other things because there’s no place for these folks to actually land, or at least not enough places for this folks to land… these bans are so ineffective that our mayor went to Denver to pretend to be homeless and didn’t get swept,” he continued.
Coffman posed undercover as “Homeless Mike” in January with the help of a Denver CBS television crew. After a week on the street of the Denver metroplex, Coffman told the television station he believed that homelessness is a “lifestyle choice, and it is a very dangerous lifestyle choice.”
On Monday, Coffman reiterated to his colleagues that his proposal isn’t “criminalizing homelessness.”
The proposal did not come with fines or penalties for unauthorized camping itself, but if a person disobeyed an order to leave the unauthorized site, they could be fined or jailed for violating the order.
Critics of such measures, including local jail and law enforcement officials, say fines and jail time imposed on homeless people for unauthorized camping essentially “criminalizes” them, compounding the problems and using public resources for their incarceration.
Tim Joyce, an assistant city attorney, told council members earlier this month that camping scofflaws ordered to move from camps during sweeps have not resisted and faced jail time or fines so far.
People living in encampments would have been given a 72-hour notice instead of a seven-day notice, like they currently are, to abandon an unlawful camping site, according to the ordinance.