If you go

What: Boulder City Council

When: 6 p.m. Tuesday

Where: Boulder Municipal Building, 1777 Broadway

Info: To read the memo and draft ordinance on solicitation and to see the complete agenda, go to http://bit.ly/1fxZJ2n.The ordinance is on first reading, and there is no public hearing. People can speak to the ordinance at open comment.

Boulder may ban panhandling in places where people have their wallets out — such as parking pay stations and ATMs — and in places where it is hard for people to move away from those who are asking for money, such as playgrounds and outdoor dining areas.

The proposed panhandling restrictions do not go as far as the limits discussed by some City Council members earlier this year or as far as many other Front Range communities. The City Attorney's Office is not recommending that the city ban panhandling at night or from vulnerable individuals, like the seniors and people with disabilities, or from vehicles at intersections.

Boulder spokeswoman Sarah Huntley said the city was trying to strike a balance, and ultimately it will be up to the council, with input from the public, to decide where to draw the line.

"We want to try to protect individuals' rights to feel safe and not feel harassed, particularly in areas where they can't quickly pass," Huntley said. "If your child is on a swing, you have to disrupt your child's play to move away. At the same time, we want to respect people's free speech rights."

A larger campaign addressing 'social misbehavior'

Courts have repeatedly found that asking for money as an activity protected by the First Amendment. However, they have also upheld local government's ability to restrict the times and places in which people can ask for money.

The panhandling ordinance is part of a broader effort to address what Boulder officials have dubbed "social misbehavior" on the municipal campus and in the downtown area. Boulder has restored the possibility of jail time for municipal offenses, asked for longer sentences for crimes committed in "high-impact" areas, installed surveillance cameras and increased police patrols.

Boulder currently does not allow panhandling on medians and pedestrians cannot interfere with traffic. That last offense was recently moved from the traffic code to the criminal code.

However, in a memo to City Council about the proposed ordinance, city officials said they are not recommending that Boulder prohibit people from getting money from cars at intersections, as Arvada, Colorado Springs, Fort Collins, Longmont, Louisville, Loveland and other cities do. Nor are they recommending a ban on soliciting at night or a ban on soliciting in certain zones.

Instead, they identified situations in which people are "either captive or particularly vulnerable."

"While panhandlers have a right to solicit donations, those solicited should have an equal right to say no and walk away," the memo said.

The ordinance would ban panhandling in outdoor dining areas, within 20 feet of a marked bus stop, a self-service fuel pump, a children's play area, an ATM, or a parking pay station.

Huntley said the ordinance applies only to verbal requests, not to people holding signs or engaging in "passive solicitation."

Huntley said the recommended restrictions are based on the most frequent complaints the city gets about panhandling.

The ordinance wouldn't go into effect until Jan. 1, and the city would do a survey on "baseline conditions" before and after.

'I don't think it's a huge issue'

As her daughter played nearby on the animal statues on the 1400 block of Pearl Street, Tamara Layman, of Boulder, said she couldn't think of a time she'd been approached by a panhandler at a playground.

"I guess I don't really see the need for it," she said of the proposed ordinance.

Josh Cotton, a University of Colorado student, said he understood the logic behind the law, but he doesn't see a big problem with panhandlers approaching people at ATMs or bus stops.

"I don't think it's a huge issue," he said. "I see where they're coming from, but I don't think it needs to be a law."

Jason Adrian Gray sat outside the downtown post office Friday afternoon with a sign that said, "Homeless Vet. Anything Helps. Thank You."

Gray said he doesn't "hustle" people, preferring to greet passers-by in a friendly manner and let his sign do the talking.

There are some "dumbasses," he said, who are aggressive in asking for money, catcall women and generally make themselves obnoxious.

But they are a minority, Gray said, because those tactics don't work.

"There's a mentality to spare-changing," he said. "You try to have some human interaction and make a connection."

The problems the ordinance would address don't happen "as much as they think," Gray said.

Barry Satlow, chair of the Boulder County chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, said the city has never demonstrated that panhandling represents a public safety issue.

"My view on panhandling is that there is no harm in asking, and they haven't shown any harm," he said. "They shouldn't be trying to restrict it. The city has repeatedly tried to do something about panhandling.

"There is a feeling that the city is trying to make things harder for homeless people and people without an income, and that's not Boulder."

Contact Camera Staff Writer Erica Meltzer at 303-473-1355 or meltzere@dailycamera.com