We may think of ourselves as passersby in Colorado Springs, but we ought to be striving to make an impression during our four years. Next Tuesday you have a great opportunity.
There is a great deal of diversity in Colorado Springs. Strolling down Tejon, I have seen the homeless singing, the artists painting, hipsters hipping, teenagers skateboarding, cadets strutting, and soldiers unwinding. This variety offers an opportunity to expand worldview and recognize that people are, first and foremost, people, and their demographic simply comes second. But as CC tries to diversify, City-Council members, the Mayor, and Chris Melcher, CC’s former lawyer and the attorney for the City of Colorado Springs, are proposing the opposite.
First, think about the feeling you get after buying a box of Girl Scout cookies and one of the girls smiles and says, “Thanks!” Or consider the feeling of compassion after contributing a dollar to the weathered man on the corner whose story runs so deep that it’s hard to sleep that night, and he says, “God Bless.” Or the sound of sweet melodies from a guitarist with his case open for support. This beautiful sense of engagement you get when facing other humans and asking for or providing support is truly under siege in downtown Colorado Springs.
Right now, the city is working on an ordinance that would make this experience much more difficult. This proposal is being referred to as the “no-solicitation ordinance” and would make it a crime to ask for anything in the downtown area. This ordinance seeks to push out the homeless, all at the risk of negatively impacting organizations such as the Salvation Army or the Girl Scouts. It is a way to quickly skirt the real issues of aggressive solicitation and economic inequality.
This ordinance seeks to homogenize the downtown area. Instead of a heavy-handed approach, why not create an atmosphere that fosters creativity and a place that people want to go spend an afternoon? Why not have art instillations instead of security cameras? Why not emulate successful downtown areas such as 16th Street in Denver or Pearl Street in Boulder? Why does Colorado Springs not have that? The downtown area should be a place to just be.
Change comes from within and spreads out. We have a campus full of enthusiastic idealists ready to do their part to make the world a better place. We have the idea that downtown should become the place to be, but the city seems to have other plans. We students have a chance to help promote justice in creative ways.
A potential first step that CCSGA’s city relations task force has considered is the enforcement of the already existing ordinance on aggressive solicitation. Ordinance 9.2.111 “Solicitation Prohibited” was enacted in 2003 and bans aggressive panhandling or any form of solicitation deemed “unlawful”. Unlawful solicitation is very subjective, and, due to this subjectivity, it has not been enforced in the downtown area. Another idea discussed includes utilizing a team of volunteers or students to inform those that are panhandling of other effective options ofbenefiting from the Colorado Springscommunity. Volunteers would be an effective resource as panhandlers would potentially benefit from a compassionate and constructive outlook rather than an authoritarian and aggressive one. These are just a couple ideas that have been discussed, and we look forward to hearing more ideas from CC students.
On Oct. 22 and 23 (Monday and Tuesday of fourth Week) at 1 p.m. in the Council Chambers, located on the third floor of City Hall (107 N. Nevada Ave.), there will be City Council meetings that will include the no-panhandling discourse. Both meetings are open to the public, but only the Tuesday meeting will allow for public comment (get there as soon as possible after class if you want to speak). Come express your ideas and make a real difference. This will be a change that we can feel because it affects our community directly. Let your voice be heard. Stand up for justice, the Girl Scouts, and the homeless.
Jaden Hawkinson and Samantha Albert