7 pm story
Vernon council has put the brakes on a plan to ban commercial shopping carts on public property.
Council voted 5-1 at Tuesday’s meeting to not proceed with a bylaw, a few weeks after voting the same way to give the idea preliminary support based on recommendations by a safety task force.
The bylaw faces possible legal challenges from some groups like the BC Civil Liberties Association and Pivot Legal Society which called it unconstitutional and discriminatory to the homeless.
Mayor Akbal Mund says he changed his vote after talking to people in Kelowna which tried a similar ban 10 years ago.
“It’s a bylaw. It’s not a criminal offence because you can’t prove the shopping cart was stolen, so it’s a bylaw and you’re issuing a ticket that you cant collect so it becomes a rotation. You’re just going through the system, and it doesn’t work,” Mund tells Beach Radio News.
Scott Anderson was the lone council who wanted to move ahead with the bylaw, calling it part of the task force’s comprehensive plan for cleaning up the downtown.
“It’s not really about the shopping carts. It’s about the standards of expectations. There appears to be two of them developing in town. One if for the street-entrenched population and the other is for everybody else.”
Anderson feels city council is bowing to special interest groups in not pursuing the bylaw.
“I really have a problem with two letters from two special interest groups coming, threatening legal action, and us assuming the end of a constitutional challenge, and running away from it.”
Anderson says it could lead to other interest groups taking similar action, when the city does something they don’t like.
“And are we going to back down from that?” wonders Anderson.
Mayor Akbal Mund says the BC Civil Liberties Association is not what he would call a special interest group, and says the costs faced by taxpayers could have been high if the bylaw was challenged.
“Who knows what the costs could be,” says Mund.
Councillor Dalvir Nahal changed her vote, saying council should have consulted with some of the social agencies.
“But at the end of the day, I think the conversation has started, and we are getting more bylaw and police. We’ve got dialogue started with different retailers in the community about taking some accountability and seeing what they can do on their part.”
Councillor Catherine Lord says she was driving home from the original vote, and realized she’d made a mistake.
“I was embarrassed. Part of the reason I voted the way I did is because we had been going so long (6 hour meeting), and we really just wanted to end it.”
Lord feels solutions are being worked on.
We’re working so hard on affordable housing. We’re working hard with bylaw and with Social Planning council to try to find an alternate solution that will work, and one that is not infringing on their human rights.”
UPDATE: 4:05 p.m.
Vernon city council has voted 5-1 not to proceed with a bylaw to ban shopping carts on public property.
Councillor Scott Anderson was the only vote against, arguing the ban was part of a comprehensive plan to clean up the downtown.
“The business community is actually worse off now because they have expectations they have to follow,” Anderson says. “The city still has to go around cleaning up the mess and the street-entrenched population has no changes to their behavioural expectations.”
City lawyers, along with groups like the BC Civil Liberties Association, said there was a good chance the proposed bylaw was unconstitutional, as it could have infringed on the rights of homeless people.
Vernon council will hold another debate today on a proposed ban on shopping carts in public places in the city.
Council voted 5-1 in support of the ban back in July, but since then, the idea has faced a public and legal backlash.
The BC Civil Liberties Association and Pivot Legal Society say the bylaw is blatantly discriminatory to homeless people, and violates the Charter of Rights.
Mayor Akbal Mund hasn’t decided which way he’ll go, but says if council wants the bylaw, it could lead to a long legal battle.
“I guess you have to consider the cost of what this could mean to the city and taxpayers. It could be in the millions of dollars for all we know.”
Councillor Brian Quiring originally supported the idea, but has since changed his mind, saying it could make the situation worse
City staff is recommending council NOT proceed with a bylaw.
The idea to pursue the ban was approved by council back in July as one of the recommendations made by the Activate Safety Task Force.