Updated Sit-Lie Talking Points

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Fort Collins City Council is considering making it a crime to sit or lie down on downtown sidewalks, or have "too many" personal belongings.

The Fort Collins City Council is considering an absurd proposal to make it a crime, punishable by up to six months in jail and a $2650 fine, to sit, lie, or kneel in large portions of downtown. The proposal also calls for criminalizing having more "attended property" than a person can carry, like a cart filled with personal belongings, or heavy luggage.

The ordinance is obviously intended to give police tools to harass, arrest, and remove people from downtown who appear to be homeless. But people do not lose their right to exist in a public place or to own possessions when they lose a home.

Tell City Council to stop spending time and money on bad ideas, like jailing people for sitting or owning possessions, and to focus on real solutions to homelessness and poverty.

I. Understanding the Revised Ordinance

What Would Be Illegal Under Fort Collins' Proposed Sit-Lie Ban?

  • sitting, kneeling, or lying down in large portions of downtown

    • on public sidewalks, walkways, or plazas

    • on an "area not designed for sitting" in a transit facility, or on public property within 20 feet of a transit facility

    • in a public restroom, or within 10 feet of the entrance/exit to a restroom, except on a toilet or bench

  • depositing "unattended personal property" (but not bikes or cars)

    • on public sidewalks, walkways, or plazas

    • on benches, or in fixtures such as planters

    • in a transit facility, or on public property within 20 feet of a transit facility

    • in a public restroom, or within 10 feet of the entrance/exit to a restroom

  • depositing "attended personal property," if it's more than "an amount that may reasonably be expected to be hand-carried by a single adult." For instance, a heavy piece of wheeled luggage.

    • on public sidewalks, walkways, or plazas

    • on benches, or in fixtures such as planters

    • in a transit facility, or on public property within 20 feet of a transit facility

    • in a public restroom, or within 10 feet of the entrance/exit to a restroom

  • All of this applies to the Old Town area, same boundaries as the smoking ban. The restrictions concerning restrooms and transit facilities apply everywhere in Fort Collins.

  • There are some exceptions for medical emergencies, people with disabilities who use wheelchairs, vendors, customers of vendors, parade/festival goers, small children, and city employees.

II. Talking Points Against this Proposal

  • sitting, kneeling, or lying down on pavement, around bus stops, and/or near restrooms

    • This ordinance does not address disruptive behaviors

    • Sitting is not a harmful act. Sitting is often viewed as less intimidating than standing

    • This ordinance is not about sitting that obstructs passageway; this ordinance is about people who don't want to see others sitting or lying on the sideway.

    • We should not be passing laws to protect people from seeing others who live differently, embrace a humble lifestyle, are visibly poor, or are simply sharing public spaces.

    • This ordinance is highly vulnerable to discriminatory enforcement.

  1. The smoking ban, which covers the same geographical boundaries, has already been enforced in a wildly discriminatory manner (37 out of 43 tickets in 2016 were issued to people without housing, which is a deeply concerning pattern);

  2. sit-lie bans elsewhere are enforced almost entirely against marginalized groups, including people experiencing homelessness;

  3. during public outreach events, police officers have already described plans to enforce this ordinance selectively.

    • Our community should not pass laws that we know will be enforced in a discriminatory manner.

    • Downtown is for everyone. It is a public space, not a private shopping mall.

  • depositing "attended personal property," if it's more than "an amount that may reasonably be expected to be hand-carried by a single adult." For instance, a heavy piece of wheeled luggage.

    • This provision invents a new crime: having "too many" personal belongings

    • If enforced fairly, this ordinance would make it a crime to sit at a bus stop with three heavy suitcases, to wheel a heavy stroller or red wagon downtown, to transport a large stack of library books in a wheeled cart, or to carry one's possessions because there is no alternative.

    • If enforced fairly, this law would be absurd. We should not be passing laws that we know will be enforced in a discriminatory manner

    • Laws that criminalize the act of "having too much stuff" take direct aim at people experiencing homelessness. We should not be criminalizing homelessness further in Fort Collins.

  • depositing "unattended personal property" on pavement, benches, etc.

    • What length of absence makes property "unattended?"

    • How will police enforce this law? Is a stroller left outside a shop "unattended personal property?"

    • How can a person use a public restroom if they cannot (a) leave their stuff nearby, or (b) take their stuff into a restroom?

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