Sidewalk sitting on downtown Anchorage streets will now be against the law under the provisions of a new ordinance passed by the Anchorage Assembly Tuesday night.
Assembly members Dick Traini, Debbie Ossiander, Ernie Hall, Bill Starr, Adam Trombley, Jennifer Johnston and Chris Birch voted for the new ordinance. Paul Honeman, Elvi Gray-Jackson, Harriet Drummond and Patrick Flynn voted against it.
Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan had introduced an original version of the ordinance back in July, after homeless man John Martin began sitting on a sidewalk street corner next to city hall in protest to Sullivan's stance on dealing with the homeless population in Anchorage.
The Anchorage Assembly couldn't get enough votes to postpone the ordinance in the summer so it could be examined closer in committee, so most of the assembly members voted to do away with the proposal altogether.
As with the original law, the new version does account for some exceptions to the sidewalk sitting ban, such as medical emergencies, watching a parade or waiting for a bus.
The new version of the law expands the hours that it's illegal to sit or lie down on downtown sidewalks.
While the old version outlawed the practice between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. seven days a week, the new ordinance banned it from 6 a.m. through midnight Monday through Thursday, and 6 a.m. through 2:30 a.m. the next morning on Friday and Saturday.
Martin appeared at Tuesday's assembly meeting and spoke in front of the 11 city leaders.
"Apparently it's OK to protest, as long as you don't protest the mayor," Martin said.
The ACLU of Alaska questioned the revised times, calling the ordinance too broad.
"The ordinance as it's proposed would bar sidewalk sitting at 6 o'clock in the morning on a Saturday," said Tom Stenson of ACLU of Alaska. "Anchorage is just not busy at a lot of the times that are in there."
Sullivan backs the revisions, pointing to case law that has been upheld in other cities like Seattle and Portland.
"We often times have events downtown," said Sullivan. "We have marathons and other events downtown, and people are setting up and getting organized very early in the morning sometimes. The times on these are somewhat arbitrary, but you have to set some time and that's when we started."
The law also sets stricter rules for panhandling in Anchorage, banning it completely downtown, and in the rest of the municipality anytime after sunset and before sunrise.
Assembly members discussed the ordinance before the vote.
"I believe that it does just what it asks me to do," said Chugiak/Eagle River assemblyman Starr. "I'm elected by the public to support the greater good."
Others disagreed with the law: "This law won't do a damn thing," said Honeman before voting against the law. Honeman represents East Anchorage on the assembly, and he is also a candidate for mayor in 2012.
The new ordinance becomes law on December 22, 30 days after the assembly approved it.
Contact Jason Lamb