An ordinance that provides clearer rules about panhandling in Casper passed its third and final vote Tuesday, despite objections from two members of the City Council.
Councilman Jesse Morgan, who previously expressed concerns that homeless residents who ask for money on the streets likely won’t be aware of the new rules, proposed an amendment Tuesday that would have limited the penalty for a first-time offense to no more than $5.
But the majority of the Council voted down his proposal.
Explaining that he trusted the city’s judges to impose reasonable punishments, Councilman Mike Huber said he firmly opposed the amendment.
“It completely ignores the fact that in many incidences it might be a person’s first conviction, but they might have been doing it a lot in the past,” he said.
Vice Mayor Charlie Powell said he also trusted the city’s judges and police officers to properly handle panhandling situations.
“I hope that our officers will educate rather than arrest and cite people and give them an opportunity to correct their behavior before they face fines and court action,” he said.
City Attorney John Henley, who suggested the law in October, has said the new ordinance is needed because panhandling is increasing in the city and the police department has asked for clearer direction about how to manage solicitors.
Councilman Dallas Laird has continuously objected, arguing that the new law could lead to a lawsuit.
“Asking for money is freedom of speech and it is not illegal,” he previously said.
Under the new ordinance, panhandling is banned within 20 feet of areas with heightened personal privacy concerns, like ATMs, bus stops and sidewalk cafes, according to a recent memo from Henley to City Manager Carter Napier.
It is also prohibited in areas with increased public safety concerns, such as high-traffic or high-speed roadways. Such roadways include First, Second, 12th, 13th and 15th streets, as well as Highway 258, Highway 254 and Interstate 25.
Aggressive panhandling is illegal in all areas. Panhandling is be defined as aggressive if it involved obscene language, blocking someone’s way, touching someone without his or her consent or continuing to solicit from an individual after receiving a negative response.
The owners of a local distillery were pleased Tuesday when the Casper City Council approved an amendment to the city’s liquor ordinance that will allow distillery satellite tasting rooms in Casper.
Prior to the vote, Chad Pollock — who co-owns Backwards Distilling Company with his sister and parents — told council members that he hopes to open a satellite tasting room downtown.
“We operate in Mills and one of the things that is a struggle for distilleries is finding central locations that can also facilitate the scale and scope of the operation,” he said. “We are looking to separate our manufacturing facility from our tasting room so we can have a bit more foot traffic and hopefully contribute to downtown’s development.”
Satellite tasting rooms are similar to bars, except the only alcohol that can be sold must be produced by the owners.
The amendment, which must pass three rounds of voting to take effect, passed its first vote Tuesday with no objections.
Morgan applauded the measure as an example of how reducing restrictions can bring new businesses into the community.
Calling the amendment “very progressive,” Laird said it had his full support because he believes satellite tasting rooms will bring in sales tax money for the city.
Amber Pollock, another co-owner of Backwards Distilling, said this week that the company’s plans for a Casper-based tasting room are still in the early stages because the owners were waiting for the Council’s decision.
“We appreciate the Mills community and the Casper community and all the folks who have supported us,” she said.