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City Council Adopts Parks Rule; Backs Boulder City Manager

Jackie Fortier
Tents in front of the Municipal Building, Boulder, CO

Last night the Boulder City Council passed a rule closing Boulder's parks overnight. The rule makes it illegal to be stationary in any of the parks between 11p.m. and 5 a.m.

Those who do may be ticketed for trespassing. It does not affect people passing through such as runners and bicyclists.

The majority of the council was at odds with all of the speakers during the public comment period, which lasted over an hour and a half.

The mood was jovial until the end of the public hearing when Mayor Matt Appelbaum threatened audience members speaking out that they would be forcibly removed if it continued. They were yelling in opposition to the comments of Councilwoman Suzy Ageton, who said that many supported the rule, even though they were not present. She also said that the council was charged with keeping the parks maintained in a safe and healthy manner.

For an hour and a half over 45 people spoke in opposition to the rule. No one spoke in favor. Many were impassioned “home free” people who said the encampment was the only stability in their lives. Others said they enjoyed meditating and sitting on the benches in the parks at night, and didn't want their freedoms restricted.

Mayor Appelbaum became stern with the audience as applause broke out after each speaker, saying that they needed to “respect the people and the process.”

Many of the speakers called the rule unconstitutional and against what Boulder stood for as a city.

Tom Carr, the city attorney, said the rule “is intended for people who remain in parks overnight,” and said it was up to the discretion of the police to enforce it in different situations. He called it a “move it along rule.”

Five police officers were scattered throughout the audience.

Jane Brautigam, the city manager said their had been “44 camping tickets given to 39 people” in Occupy Boulder. She cited a heroin overdose and an assault having taken place in the encampment as cause for concern to the larger community. She also stressed concerns about public health and safety, such as trash and human feces in the Sister City Plaza in front of the Municipal building where the encampment moved to. She said despite police efforts and continued ticketing, camping in parks had not decreased.

"Our police officers cannot watch the campers at every moment," Brautigam said. "The camping ordinance is not effective at curbing encampments."

"Camping is illegal in the city of Boulder," said City Attorney Tom Carr. "Looking at the front of this building, you would not know that."

Members of Occupy Boulder said over 30 people stay in the encampment nightly.

Many during the public comments asked if the city manager was overstepping her authority, while other proposed port a potties in order to address the health concerns.

Councilwoman Liza Morzel made a motion to adopt the rule, in order to “take the heat off” Jane Brautigam, the city manager, for the implementation of the ruling.

Brautigam said she would sign the rule and it would be in affect Wednesday night.

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