Aldermen ban shopping carts, multiple bikes, in city parks

Alderman Joseph Kelly Levasseur on October 18, 2022. Photo/Andrew Sylvia

MANCHESTER, NH – Manchester’s Mayor and Aldermen’s Council on Tuesday approved an amendment to the ordinance adding new restrictions to items allowed in parks.

With the amendment, Section 96.06 of the City Charter now prohibits tarps, “market umbrellas”, umbrellas, structures or shopping carts in parks or more than one bicycle per person in a park without the consent of the director of the city’s public works department.

After a committee recommendation earlier this month, the council of burgomasters and aldermen committee on second reading bills recommended the wording of the amendment before the full council meets later that evening .

While Aldermen Christine Fajardo (Ward 4) and Erin George-Kelly (Ward 12) opposed the amendment in committee, Mayor Joyce Craig confirmed with City Clerk Matt Normand that the committee’s focus was on the wording of the items rather than its policy impacts and they could discuss the policy further at the board meeting later that evening

Just under half a dozen people, including several homeless people, asked during the full board’s public comment session to table the amendment until more work could be done. to provide housing for the city’s homeless population.

Some of those who spoke pledged to help the city solve the city’s homeless aid problem, as others like Brandon Lemay criticized the council for advancing what was seen as a meaningless and unenforceable gesture.

“(The amendment) doesn’t solve any problem, it’s an attempt to make it look like you’re solving the problem with a solution that doesn’t do anything productive,” Lemay told the board.

When council arrived to take action on the bills’ recommendation for second reading earlier in the evening, Ward 3 Alderman Pat Long moved a motion to suspend council rules and move the amendment at its third and final hearing, skipping another hearing by the Council of Mayors and Aldermen Accounts, Enrollment and Revenue Administration Committee before it returns for full council for ordination.

Long said he heard from voters, especially older voters, who were afraid to go to the park.

“Whether that fear is a perception or not, if they fear that, that’s good enough for me.”

Long responded to George-Kelly’s claims that the amendment ultimately criminalized the city’s homeless population by stating that the homeless would still be welcome in the park on the same level as any member of the public. He also noted efforts at the state and city level to help the city’s homeless population, which Craig later reiterated.

Ward 10 Alderman Bill Barry said he has heard from constituents that they have also been harassed by homeless people in parks, as has Ward 2 Alderman Will Stewart earlier in the month. However, Stewart acknowledged comments from public speakers that the amendment would not address the underlying issue around the issue, viewing it as a “tactical” response.

At-Large Alderman Joseph Kelly Levasseur praised the speakers’ eloquence, but also wished they had waited half an hour after public comment ended to express his frustration with the city’s homeless population in his together.

He said if people acted on someone else’s private property like the city’s homeless population had acted in city parks, they would be arrested. He also criticized members of the homeless population for necessary cleanups at homeless camps such as the former Cracker Barrel site and the Amoskeag Bridge and their lack of respect for the city’s efforts to help them. and community members’ fear of recent killings. committed by homeless people.

He also defended Craig, Ward 9 Alderman Jim Burkush and city workers who were criticized for not addressing the issue despite their efforts to do so.

“The city had had enough and I had had enough a long time ago because I knew where it was going to lead,” he said. “The more free stuff you give away, the more free stuff they want.”

On a recorded vote, the motion to suspend the rules and direct the amendment carried 11-2. Fajardo and Erin Kelly voted in opposition and Tony Sapienza (Ward 5) was absent.

Fajardo hoped discussion on the subject could continue in the future, and At-Large Alderman June Trisciani and Craig noted that the Department of Public Works will store items belonging to the city’s homeless population upon request.

Craig also noted ongoing efforts to address homelessness, citing $11 million spent by the board on the issue as well as new affordable housing in the city and nonprofit developers with experience in the renovation of abandoned hotels entering into discussions with the city.

“I wish we could say we can end homelessness tomorrow, but it’s a complicated long-term issue,” Craig said.

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