BREAKING NEWS: Missoula City Council Bans Baby Strollers Downtown!

By JC

not-in-my-town

In a stunning vote of 7-3, Missoula’s City Council amended Missoula Municipal Code Title 9, entitled “Public Peace, Morals and Welfare,” Chapter 9.34 entitled “Pedestrian Interference”. The amendment included the following definition of “sit”:

H. “Sit” means to be in a position in which your bottom is resting on a chair, the ground, etc. with your back upright.

The Council then applied the new definition of “sitting” to the following activities:

A. It is unlawful for any person to sit, lie or sleep on a sidewalk within twenty (20)  feet of an entrance to a building, or to sit, lie or sleep upon any street or alley, within the city limits.

B. It is unlawful for any person to sit, lie or sleep on a public sidewalk, or upon a blanket, chair, stool, or any other object placed upon a public sidewalk during the hours between 6:00 am and 11:00 pm in the Downtown Business Improvement District of Missoula;

While the Council did make exceptions for certain things like medical emergencies and when they “authorize” protesters to exercise first amendment rights (how nice of them!), and permitting restaurants that want to expand their occupancy numbers by allowing sidewalk seating, it appears that the baby stroller lobby didn’t have enough clout to grant them an exemption to the new ordinance.

But fear not, babes sitting with their “bottoms” resting on a chair with wheels (or will strollers be grandfathered in under a disability provision to use a “wheelchair”?), you are in good company with Missoula’s finest of homeless citizens. You have been added to the list of obstructionists getting in the way of “upstanding” citizens utilizing their lawful right to walk the sidewalks of Missoula unimpeded by strollers.

Cyclists, be aware that your sitting on the seat of your bicycle while on a sidewalk may be interpreted as a violation of this ordinance, too. Let’s see how the local police determine to proceed with that apparent violation.

It will be interesting to see if Missoula’s men in blue understand all citizens’ rights to Equal Protection under the Constitution’s 14th Amendment by fairly implementing the law. If we can get enough baby strollers ticketed, maybe the City can escape the inevitable charges of selective enforcement, and violating homeless peoples’ civil rights to occupy public space. Or for violating homeless peoples’ rights under the 8th Amendment to sleeping on the streets and sidewalks of Missoula.

Welcome to the expansion of the nanny state in Missoula. Outraged? Here’s a good place to start…

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  1. JC do they really have to give “authorization” to protesters? I’m pretty sure the first amendment doesn’t say you have to “ask” for authorization to participate in free speech? Our am I reading an OLD version of the First Amendment?

  2. Also loved the photo at the head of the post! *g*

  3. JC

    Thanks, mtstargazer. The ordinance reads, at 9.34.030 E:

    “Acts authorized as an exercise of one’s constitutional right to picket or to legally protest shall not constitute obstruction of or interference with pedestrian traffic.”

    So they clearly state that an Act has to be authorized in order to not be construed as “obstruction.” Of course, as with much of City ordinances, they are so poorly worded and vague, that the City Attorney always grants leeway. For 1st Amendment issues, City Attorney Jim Nugent will usually defer to the Constitution over poorly written ordinances, like this one, to protect the City and it’s insurance underwriters from civil suits. But that raises the issue of Equal Justice, as interpretation of what is legal or illegal then becomes subjective. When does enforcement occur?

    In the case of this ordinance, the word “homeless” or “transient” or “vagrant” do not show up in the written code. Nor does the word “stroller” for that matter.

    So we are left with the common understanding that the ordinance was really only written to affect homeless transients, and not baby strollers. The old “wink-and-a-nod” style of subtle prejudice.

    But sometimes old curmudgeons like myself like to take the absurd view in order to make what should be an obvious point to the City, it’s enforcers, and the public.

  4. d.g.

    Are you able to post how the votes were cast? Efficacy in E-mail; these 12 council members enjoy our “hands off” activism much more than you will ever know.

  5. Good one :)

  6. http://www.rainbowcc.com.hk/

    Baby – Rainbow Care Centre at Prince Edward MTR, high-quality baby products shop. Baby bottles, baby utensils, Childcare, safety baby stroller, crib, bedding, chairs and a series of pregnant women supplies. , Online shopping, Welcome to buy baby supplies.

  7. lizard19

    babies are notorious free-loaders, constantly begging for handouts, like snacks and boob-milk. their mouths constantly emit noise pollution, which detracts from the peaceful commerce downtown. their presence is not desirable, and once they are banned, I expect business will be booming.

  8. Big Swede

    A “liberal city” symptom wouldn’t ya think?

    Seattle and San Fran have similar ordinances.

    http://www.fogcityjournal.com/wordpress/1631/sit-lie-dog-and-pony-show/

    • JC

      Did you even read the article you linked to? The author, who might be a “liberal” by your definition, had this to say at the end

      “If the city’s conservatives balk at that and insist on a draconian, over-broad blank check for police as the only possible way to address their concerns, then we’ll know exactly what they’re trying to do”

      And your beloved Billings has aggressive panhandling laws too. Guess that makes you a liberal, eh??

      • Big Swede

        No there is a difference JC. Billings may have as many homeless and beggars but we don’t obsess about them.

        We don’t use their predicament as a club to intimidate the self sufficient sober residents.

  9. petetalbot

    Had I been on council, I would have voted with the minority (Jaffe, Taft, Wiener) but it would have been a tough call.

    Having been involved in downtown businesses, mostly through my wife, for a couple of decades, I understand the frustrations of downtown business owners. The challenges of making it in a small downtown business are numerous, and dealing with drunks, wackos and panhandlers didn’t help.

    It always seemed unfair to me that downtown got the lion’s share of these folks. Maybe free bus rides to Walmart, Target, Costco and the mall so that this burden could be equally distributed?

    A bigger problem, though, was cleaning up Monday morning — puke, piss, graffiti, broken windows — when the youngsters had finished drinking themselves blotto over the weekend at our numerous watering holes. Never saw any ordinances advanced to address that problem, though.

    Anyway, I empathize with the downtown business community but this new ordinance goes too far.

    • Pogo Possum

      Pete, I just sent you an email. Check it out.




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