Mayor Bach has just announced a new addition to his extensive list of forthcoming changes to downtown, in what he called a “downtown renaissance.”
His newest proposal, which Bach said is still in the early planning stages, is to pass a city ordinance making Acacia Park a smoke-free zone. This new smoke-free area is part of the Mayor’s effort to fulfill his campaign promises to make downtown more pleasant for its citizens and to heal the waning economy.
“I believe strongly in doing everything we can for our downtown,” Bach told the Gazette. “It is the heart of our city. It can help build the soul of our community.”
The mayor’s plan is to increase the strength of the economy by making the shopping district downtown a location where citizens can spend a fair amount of time, and hopefully, money.
Bach is currently working on implementing several parts of his overall vision simultaneously, which include putting surveillance cameras around Acacia Park (by mid-November), moving the Marian House soup kitchen away from downtown, making the meters downtown accept credit cards, and extending the time that cars can park at the meters.
The coal-fired Martin Drake Power Plant might also be on the way out.
After an advisory panel convened earlier this year, it was decided that, among other things, America the Beautiful Park should be renamed “Olympic Park”, include a “Wall of Honor” for U.S. Olympic athletes, and a pedestrian bridge to lead people to the park from downtown.
While the Urban Land Institute panel, headed by former Indianapolis Mayor Bill Hudnut, made no suggestions about how to pay for these projects, they seem to have been taken seriously by the mayor’s office.
“Colorado Springs needs to try to trade off the Olympic presence here to generate tourism, which is a very fundamental driver of the economy of downtown,” Hundut told the Gazette. “The need to identify Colorado Springs as the town where the Olympic headquarters is located is of critical importance.”
Other efforts led by the mayor’s office include the controversial idea to ban panhandling in the downtown area, a policy that has increased in popularity around the country by over seven percent since 2009.
Similar policies have been successfully contested in a number of cities that have tried implementing them, such as Salt Lake City, where citizens claimed that such ordinances violate the first amendment’s protection of free speech.
Colorado Springs City Attorney Chris Melcher said about panhandling, “Soliciting for money is a first amendment protected speech.” He explained that first amendment speech can be limited, but it has to be done very carefully. The ordinance will ban all forms of solicitation, not just panhandling, so that the ban is based on conduct and not content.
However, Councilman Bernie Herpin has expressed dislike for this plan to the Colorado Springs Business Journal, because Melcher told the council that it is nearly impossible to include Acacia Park in the no-solicitation zone.
“You’re going to take all the panhandling in downtown and shove in at Acacia Park,” he said.