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Pan-ban in the can 

City attorneys caution against panhandling ban

City attorneys have advised against enacting a broad ban on panhandling and other types of solicitation in downtown Colorado Springs, citing the likelihood that it would be ruled unconstitutional.

In a memo sent to City Council last month, the city attorney's office indicated that an ordinance in Key West, Fla., that outlaws most types of solicitation in a specific downtown area would likely be interpreted as an infringement on First Amendment rights, said Councilman Larry Small. The Colorado Springs City Council is considering the possibility of enacting a similar ban here and instructed the city attorney to pursue its feasibility.

This week, Small said the attorney's office noted that similar ordinances have been shot down on constitutional grounds.

"In the end it just isn't appropriate in Colorado Springs to do that," Small said. "We already have loitering ordinances that prohibit people [from panhandling] in business entryways. I think that's working pretty well."

The proposal to adopt a Key West-style ordinance arose in September when Bob Holmes, Homeward Pikes Peak's executive director, urged a downtown panhandling ban in order to help cut away the roots of chronic homelessness or, in his words, the "arrogant homeless" people.

On Monday, City Attorney Patricia Kelly declined to comment about the opinion, saying she is barred from discussing information covered by an attorney-client relationship with Council.

Mayor Lionel Rivera and council members Darryl Glenn and Jerry Heimlicher said they had not yet read the memo and would reserve judgment on its contents.

"They're looking at some alternatives," Heimlicher said, speaking of conversations he's had with City Manager Lorne Kramer. "I'll need to take a look at those.

"We still have some work to do," Kramer said. "And we have a city opinion that interprets the state constitution."

Kramer said his office would present its findings before City Council, but he said he was not sure when. Any formal council decision on the proposed ordinance, he said, would probably not be made before January.

-- Dan Wilcock

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