May 22, 2014
Boulder, CO – The ACLU of Colorado and its Boulder County chapter are opposing the proposed new panhandling ordinance pending before the Boulder City Council. They detailed their opposition, on free speech grounds, in a memo addressed to council members today, calling the proposal overly broad.
“The overly broad proposed ordinance would make it a crime to engage in peaceful, polite, non-threatening expression that poses no risk to public safety and is squarely protected by the First Amendment and Article II, Section 10 of the Colorado Constitution,” the ACLU said in the memo. “The proposed ordinance is a content-based restriction of expression. It regulates requests for money but not other types of solicitation.”
The memo cited a pending ACLU case in which the federal court granted a temporary restraining order against a portion of a Grand Junction ordinance restricting panhandling and an ACLU case in Idaho in which a federal court recently issued a preliminary injunction against a Boise ordinance that is similar to the Boulder proposal.
The ACLU memo noted that “Boulder already has a law against aggressive begging. … It also restricts begging on parts of the Pearl Street Mall and in the University Hill commercial district.” The new proposal, it said, “when combined with the recent [council] decision to restore jail time for many first-time minor offenses … sends a chilling message to residents and to other municipalities around the state that the City of Boulder is consciously moving away from its long-held commitment to protecting civil liberties in favor of a draconian crackdown aimed squarely at the vulnerable and least fortunate in the community.”