Mayor Mike McGinn doesn’t like civility laws. “During the campaign I expressed my concerns about civility laws generally,” he told reporters at City Hall this afternoon. He prefers police foot patrols, which study after study finds are a more effective way to curb and deter crime.
But McGinn refused to take a position on a civility bill introduced by City Council Member Tim Burgess that creates a $50 fine for so-called aggressive panhandling. “I suspect there will be more votes than a veto could sustain,” he said.
“I think we have expressed our concerns about the bill, and we are going to be careful about how it is implemented if passed,” McGinn said. “You don’t want the enforcement to be overreaching for simply panhandling or simply appearing to be unwelcome downtown.”
If the council members do pass the bill, he said, they should consider including several provisions. Among them: a sunset clause after a few years and a mechanism to monitor the law’s implementation.
“Aggressive behavior should not occur downtown under any circumstances,” said McGinn, adding that the city already has laws that address aggressive and intimidating behavior. Which is a good thing for people who want laws to address street safety. “I am not sure how much effect the bill is going to have given that it has been amended so much,” he said.
But for someone who campaigned on a platform against civility laws—which are feelgood measures that have little impact but appease downtown business interests, the same people who backed McGinn's opponent—McGinn is taking a wimpy non-stance. He dislikes the laws overall but, gee willikers, now that he thinks the council could pass one, he can’t seem to have an opinion. That’s disappointing (but not exactly surprising, given that this is politics). If he likes the bill, he should come out and say it. If he doesn’t like the bill—sponsored by the city council member who is sure to challenge him for mayor in 2013 and has the backing of all the downtown interests who will oppose McGinn's bid for reelection—then he should say that. It may be his best strategy to break up that veto-proof majority.