Columns » Ranger Rich

New laws for the city

Ranger Rich

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There's nothing sadder than watching a guy who seems a little bit odd begging for money, hand outstretched, sometimes holding a sign, the deep age lines on his face and the desperation in his eyes tugging at your heart.

But enough about Mayor Steve Bach raising money for his campaign a few years ago.

We're talking today about a federal court judge in Denver striking down our village's brilliant plan to ban poor people from asking for spare change in the downtown area. Frankly, if I wanted angry-looking, unpleasant people shaking me down for every last penny in my pocket, I'd walk into the Colorado Springs Utilities office holding my bill.

Seriously, our mayor and City Council thought the panhandling ban was a great idea, pointing out that if homeless people didn't spend all day asking for money, they'd have time for more positive activities — such as shivering.

Because the process involved a lot of lawyers, all seeking to pad their billable hours, and a judicial system still reeling from that O.J. Simpson verdict, this is how the ruling went: The new city law was not overturned and officially has gone into effect. The federal injunction, however, prohibits enforcement.

This is like owning a pit bull with no teeth, or being attacked by bees that don't have stingers.

The ban, the judge ruled, violates the First Amendment, which prohibits the "quartering of soldiers." Unless you own a bar named Rum Bay and it's 2 a.m. on Saturday and 6,000 soldiers are passed out on the floor.

Oops. That's the Third Amendment.

The First Amendment "protects the freedom of speech, freedom of religion and freedom of the press, as well as the right to assemble and petition the government."

(The lesser-known 18th Amendment allows us to keep goats as pets "as long as they have never been ridden.")

Anyway, as our village determines its next steps, Bach and our big-hearted Council will seek to implement other new regulations inside a 12-block area of downtown, including:

• Laughter of children will be prohibited on Tuesdays and Saturdays.

• On Wednesdays and Thursdays, no "knock-knock" jokes or any attempts at humor that start with, "There once was a girl from Nantucket ..." will be allowed.

• A personal pet peeve of Mayor Bach will be addressed with a Saturday and Sunday ban on men in their 70s appearing in public with gray hair.

• After 4 p.m. daily, pets may not be dressed in clothing including doggie Christmas sweaters, jogging outfits or tiny little band uniforms unless there is a hole in the pants so the tail can stick out.

• Between 9 a.m. and noon daily, tall people may not use the crosswalks.

• After 1 p.m. on alternating days, excluding weekends, people named Dave, Eleanor, James or "Tappy" must walk into the wind.

• With the exception of Sundays between 2 and 4 p.m., it will be legal to throw a homeless person into traffic to see if drivers will stop.

• Women may not walk within 500 feet of the El Paso Club. First-time violators will be given the loud verbal warning, "Don't you have cookies to bake or a room to vacuum?" A second infraction will bring the loss of voting rights.

• On weekdays, the only public greeting allowed is, "Hey there, how are you? And the kids?" Banned in the 12-block area are, "How's it hanging?" "Still shakin' that thang?" and "Whoa, Martha! Last time I saw a rack like that, it was on an elk."

• City Councilman Bernie Herpin, who says having a stranger ask you for money violates your right to "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness," shall not be considered a kook or goof on Thursdays between 3 and 6 p.m.

• And City Attorney Chris Melcher, whose old job at Colorado College was disappearing because of budget issues, shall be allowed, between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. weekdays, to scrape the CC bumper or window sticker off your car with an ax.

Rich Tosches (rangerrich@csindy.com) also writes a Sunday column in the Denver Post.

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