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Mayor Mike Coffman, who spent a week in homeless camps and local shelters in late 2020, will propose a camping ban on Aurora.
“I will be introducing an ordinance banning camping in the city of Aurora on Thursday,” Coffman tweeted on Monday May 17th. “The proposal has already been drawn up, but I would like to work with the prosecutor to ensure that the proposed camping ban is respected.” complies with CDC guidelines that were introduced at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and are still in force. I also want to make sure that the proposed camping ban meets the conditions set out in court rulings that challenged and upheld camping bans. “
Coffman, a Republican who previously served in the US House of Representatives, launched the idea of an urban camping ban on Aurora since last October. In late December, he posed as a homeless veteran – also known as “Homeless Mike” – and lived in camps in Denver and Aurora. He told Shaun Boyd, a political reporter for CBS4, before his mission and gave her the first interview afterwards.
“These camps are not a product of an economy under COVID. They are not a product of rental prices and housing. They are a product of a drug culture,” Coffman told Boyd, adding that the people who went to shelters were different from those in the shelters Live outdoors. “It’s a lifestyle choice and it’s a very dangerous lifestyle choice,” he said of the people on the street.
Denver has had a city camping ban since 2012. Other Front Range cities, including Boulder and Fort Collins, also have camping bans on the books.
Proponents argue that such bans make homelessness a criminal offense. “Camping bans do not solve homelessness – they make it worse and are a waste of time and money. Punishing people for being homeless is cruel and unproductive. Executives need to focus on and invest in real solutions like housing and services and stop stigmatizing the experience of Homelessness to suit their own preconceived beliefs, “says Cathy Alderman of the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless, which describes Coffman’s plans as” very disappointing. “
“I think you will hear from the activists, but I think the councilors will be hearing from average organized citizens who are fed up,” says Coffman. “Just like Denver. Not unlike Denver.”
Denver authorities cite the camping ban when telling people seeking shelter outdoors to move their tents, tarps, or sleeping bags. But this ban, like others across the country, has faced several legal challenges. The latest lawsuit against the Denver Ordinance filed last October by several homeless people and the Denver Homeless Out Loud advocacy group in Colorado’s U.S. District Court resulted in an injunction from Judge William J. Martinez, requiring Denver to give a week’s notice must give sweeping of stores and a period of at least 48 hours before clearing stores, even in critical health and safety conditions.
Although Aurora has camps, the city has not yet issued a camping ban.
As Coffman noted in his tweet, the Aurora camping ban proposal will take appropriate court rulings into account. Coffman also wants the ban to be in line with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s COVID-19 guidelines that camps should not be swept unless individual housing is available to prevent the virus from spreading .
Denver officials estimate the city’s unprotected population could be as high as 1,500. Up to 400 people live in shelters or on the streets in Aurora. By the end of last month, Aurora had set up a safe campground for the homeless in a parking lot in the northwest of the city next to an emergency shelter used for COVID isolation cases. Aurora officials are still looking into creating safer campsites across the city.
In the meantime, Coffman’s proposal will go to Aurora City Council.
Aurora has a form of government as a council manager. While a city administrator runs Aurora on a daily basis, the mayor oversees the council meetings and serves as the city’s public face. The mayor can also introduce ordinances that Coffman has issued several times. Of the five councilors, Marsha Berzins, Francoise Bergan and Dave Gruber, all Republicans, are likely to approve such an ordinance. Crystal Murillo, Juan Marcano, Alison Coombs, Allison Hiltz and Nicole Johnston, all more left-wing members, will almost certainly vote against it. Curtis Gardner, a libertarian councilor, and Angela Lawson, a former Republican now disconnected, could go either way.
Coffman would need five of the ten councilors to approve the ordinance in order to enforce it. As mayor, he can only vote if the other members are stuck – and he can break the tie.
This story has been updated to include a quote from Mayor Mike Coffman.
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Conor McCormick-Cavanagh works for Westword where he covers a range of topics including local politics, immigration and homelessness. He previously worked as a journalist in Tunisia and loves talking about New York sports.