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Anchorage Assembly postpones mayor's proposal to restrict sidewalk-sitting, panhandling

Posted: July 27, 2011 - 8:24pm

ANCHORAGE — The Anchorage Assembly has shelved a proposal by Mayor Dan Sullivan to restrict sitting on sidewalks and panhandling downtown.

The assembly voted 9-1 Tuesday night to postpone the proposed ordinance indefinitely, with Assemblyman Chris Birch casting the only vote against the motion. At the same meeting, about a dozen people spoke against the proposal.

The proposal would have to be reintroduced to bring it before the assembly again, the Anchorage Daily News reported.

Sullivan had asked the Assembly to postpone the proposal to a date in September to give his administration additional time to work on it. He also wanted it to be reviewed by the city Public Safety Advisory Commission. With Assemblywoman Jennifer Johnston absent, the Assembly was evenly split on postponing the sidewalk debate to September, so the action failed.

Sullivan has said the proposal arose in response to a homeless man, John Martin, who has been sitting or lying on sidewalks near City Hall to protest the city’s policies on homelessness. Martin is a registered sex offender.

Assemblyman Dick Traini was among those who opposed the current version.

“This needs to go away,” he said. “It’s defective.”

Among the public speaking against the ordinance was Mary Morgan. She said she ended up homeless with two children after a bad marriage. Her brother rescued her.

“People get stuck in situations all the time,” Morgan said.

The proposed law would ban sitting on downtown sidewalks. There would be exceptions in certain cases including medical emergencies, bus stops, parades and demonstrations that have special permits.

The proposal would also make blocking pedestrians in certain situations a crime. It also would expand rules against panhandling by prohibiting it downtown or after dark.

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