Kareem Johnson | Digital Journalist

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

Fines could be as high as $1,000

By Kareem JohnsonEmail the author | April 26, 2011

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.



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