Ordinance restricting sidewalk use advances to Dec. 2 committee meeting

Date 11/19/19
Date 11/19/19

The Las Vegas City Council voted Wednesday to advance a proposed ordinance that would make it a misdemeanor to sit, camp or sleep on city sidewalks during designated cleaning hours to a recommending committee meeting Dec. 2.

The proposal, sponsored by Mayor Carolyn Goodman, would authorize hours for cleaning public sidewalks, during which people could be cited up to $1,000 or incarcerated for up to six months in jail for lying, sitting, or sleeping on sidewalks.

Both Holly Welborn, the policy director with the ACLU of Nevada, and Emily Paulsen, the executive director with the Nevada Homeless Alliance, said the street cleaning component of the bill disguises its true intention.

“The reality is that this is another camping ban, but one with no limitations,” Paulsen said. “It applies to anywhere in the city, and allows the department of operations and maintenance to establish when it would be unlawful to be on the sidewalk without any limitations.”

Issuing citations and jailing people, Paulsen added, would have lasting consequences that would “perpetuate the cycle of homelessness.”

Goodman formally introduced another camping ban at an Oct. 1 City Council meeting. Whenever there are beds open at emergency shelters or space is available at the open-air Courtyard Homeless Resource Center, it becomes a misdemeanor to sleep on downtown sidewalks.

The ordinance, which was approved in a 5-2 vote at the Nov. 6 City Council meeting, gives enforcement parameters and doesn’t go into effect until 2020. Welborn said the new proposal looks like a workaround.

“The city didn’t even reach out (to the ACLU) about this one, which makes it seem like they are quietly trying to pass it so they can begin immediately enforcing it,” she said. “This will just funnel people into our jails, which are already overcrowded.”

The first ordinance received substantial pushback from civil rights groups, county officials, homeless outreach organizations and presidential candidates. Many of the same groups are planning to oppose the new ordinance.

Michael Lyle
Michael Lyle (MJ to some) has been a journalist in Las Vegas for eight years.  He started his career at View Neighborhood News, the community edition of the Las Vegas Review-Journal. During his seven years with the R-J, he won several first place awards from the Nevada Press Association and was named its 2011 Journalist of Merit. He left the paper in 2017 and spent a year as a freelance journalist accumulating bylines anywhere from The Washington Post to Desert Companion. While he covers a range of topics from homelessness to the criminal justice system, he gravitates toward stories about race relations and LGBTQ issues. Born and mostly raised in Las Vegas, Lyle graduated from UNLV with a degree in Journalism and Media Studies. He is currently working on his master's in Communications through an online program at Syracuse University. In his spare time, Lyle cooks through Ina Garten recipes in hopes of one day becoming the successor to the Barefoot Contessa throne. When he isn’t cooking (or eating), he also enjoys reading, running and re-watching episodes of “Parks and Recreation.” He is also in the process of learning kickboxing.