We have pointed to the massive homeless problems in Seattle, Portland, and Los Angeles. Now the city of Austin, Texas, has decided it wants to take a step closer to the same future.

The city council has voted to rescind prohibitions on camping, sleeping, and panhandling on public sidewalks – but not in front of city hall, of course.

Elizabeth Findell reports at The Statesman:

Camping comes to Austin public spaces — but not at City Hall

After emotional testimony last week regarding homelessness in Austin, City Council members rescinded prohibitions on camping on public property. Starting Monday, so long as they are not presenting a hazard or danger, people will be able to sleep, lie and set up tents on city-owned sidewalks, plazas and vacant non-park space.

Except, not in front of City Hall itself.

City Hall building guidelines implemented by former City Manager Marc Ott in 2012 disallow anyone from using the outdoor plaza, covered amphitheater or raised mezzanine from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. unless a city meeting is going on inside. The rules specifically prohibit sleeping, camping, storing personal property and erecting tents.

City spokespersons confirmed this week that the camping prohibition remains in place. City Manager Spencer Cronk said in a text message that staffers are reviewing the policy, but did not indicate whether he intends to rescind it.

Mayor Steve Adler said Friday that he does not think the City Hall camping ban should be immediately rescinded. He said it should be reviewed as staffers seek to identify, by August, the places where people should and shouldn’t be allowed to camp in Austin. Adler acknowledged that some business owners objected to the ordinance changes out of concern about the impact people camping in front of their businesses could have, but he said they shouldn’t consider the City Hall ban to be hypocritical.

Imagine being a business owner in this city and knowing that the city council will allow people to camp out in front of your office or shop, but not the offices of the people making the rules. Why would anyone put up with this?

You’ll never guess why officials banned camping at city hall.

Kevin Clark reports at KXAN News:

Camping was banned at City Hall in 2012 after Occupy Austin protesters refused to leave.

The group was allied with the Occupy Wall Street, a movement against economic inequality.

Many started living on the steps of City Hall. After four months, the group had cost the city almost a million dollars in public safety and cleanup fees.

That’s when Austin started banning people in the city plaza from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m.

Here’s a short video report on the story from KVUE News:

Texas Governor Greg Abbott said on Twitter that the state could override this:

Knowing what we know about how this sort of policy has worked out in other cities, Austin’s decision to allow this boggles the mind.

Featured image via YouTube.


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