Supporters admit anti-sitting laws have accomplished nothing in other cities.[i] They admit the law would be used in a discriminatory fashion, a “back pocket” measure. They acknowledge that the law is aimed at a handful of people who aren’t technically committing crimes. They acknowledge that “the problem” they wish to “solve” is isolated to perhaps two or three storefronts in the city.
So why are they pursuing an anti-sitting law? “Because we have to do something,” they say with exasperation.
“Even something stupid?” one is tempted to ask. Even something that will cost taxpayers more than the estimated $26,000 being budgeted for it while service organizations’ budgets are slashed? Even something that further erodes not just the rights of the vulnerable group being targeted, but everyone who wishes to stop and rest for a moment in a commercial district?
I used to run into this argument in planning meetings, especially after an entire neighborhood would turn dutifully out with solid information proving the building plan on paper would destroy the balance of a vulnerable part of the city. The planners would routinely plead, “But we have to do something!”
This brings me to ping pong. Listen up, planners, politicians, and meddling merchant associations; if you absolutely must sidestep what works (jobs, housing, recovery services) for people sidelined in life, and if you feel you absolutely must do something, try a game of ping pong. You’ll do less damage, spend less money, and get some exercise along the way.
[i] Except for Mayor Tom Bates, who cited Seattle’s horrifying street population in his press release, forgetting that Seattle has had an anti-sitting law since 1994.