Gazette Editorial Board
hat next? A dress code? Reservations? A hefty user fee?
The Iowa City Council already has passed ordinances that ban smoking and severely restrict panhandling on much of the city’s downtown Pedestrian Mall. Now they’re being asked to further outlaw “nuisance” behavior some local businesses owners say are being caused by local homeless residents and making other would-be users feel unsafe or unwelcome.
But a stroll through the Ped Mall over the lunch hour on Thursday showed no evidence of the out-of-control vagrants that allegedly are making the public space inhospitable to others.
In fact, we found a broad mix of people — from families with children to workers on lunch break, to couples chatting and solo “loiterers” working on crossword puzzles — enjoying the pleasant summer day.
That’s exactly what the public space was designed for, and its persistent popularity, not only at noon but also in the early evening hours, weekends and all times of the day, shows it’s functioning as intended.
It lends further evidence to our already strong conviction that there are already are more than enough laws restricting public activity in downtown Iowa City’s public places.
Councilors should politely decline to take up these latest suggestions put forth by some, which would seek to limit loitering and storage of personal items on the Pedestrian Mall.
Certainly, police already have plenty to do, enforcing the ordinances Council passed just a few years ago, banning folks from asking for money in most places on the Ped Mall, and other areas downtown.
We opposed that restriction, too. Harassment and disorderly conduct already are against the law. “Enough is enough.” we wrote back then. That goes double now.
Clearly, some people won’t be satisfied until rough-hewn residents are scrubbed from downtown city streets.
But no one has a right to prevent others from the peaceable enjoyment of our public space.
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