WARWICK, RI — The Labor Day weekend bumps next week’s Warwick City Council meeting till Wednesday, 7 p.m. at City Hall, 3275 Post Road, when councillors will consider ordinances regulating dangerous dogs and restricting standing in areas of streets without sidewalks, typically used by panhandlers.
This week, the August meeting is more likely to start on time than summertime meeting attendees may have become accustomed to. City Council Committee meetings have begun stretching well past the scheduled 7 p.m. meeting time.
The tardiness was particularly pronounced during the Aug. 21 meeting, when the committee meetings stretched past 9:30 p.m. before the Council began its regular business.
“We had a three-and-a-half-hour finance committee meeting which stated at 5. Once that was completed the rest of the committees met, and then the council meeting started. I expect things to get back to their regular times going forward,” said Councilman Steve McAllister.
McAllister said that since the Council only met once in July and August, a number of bids were held during the July finance meeting so the Council could have additional information before taking a vote.
“Therefore, the August agenda was extra long because not only did we have a full agenda for the one August meeting, but we also had to address the bids that we held in July. We are back to having two meetings a month starting in September, therefore I believe we should be back to the regularly scheduled program,” McAllister said.
The Council’s regular business will include, after a long hiatus and a few edits, the return of a resolution intended to curb panhandling in the City.
The resolution, PCO-40-16 An Ordinance regarding Pedestrians, originally sponsored by Councillors Steven Merolla and Ed Ladouceur, now sponsored only by Merolla, would prohibit pedestrians from walking or standing in the road or standing on or next to the median of a road where sidewalks are provided. The resolution would also require pedestrians to walk only on the left side of the road or its shoulder, facing traffic.
In March, Merolla said he heard from the ACLU in the fall about their concerns, and he told them at the time he intended to hold the legislation for edits following the outcome of legal challenges to similar legislation in Cranston and Providence.
In April 2016, Cranston settled an ACLU lawsuit challenging their panhandling ordinance, acknowledging it was unconstitutional. That suit argued the ordinance was unconstitutionally vague, infringed on free speech rights, and was enforced selectively by targeting panhandlers trying to make ends meet while allowing fundraising groups to solicit motorists.
Related Reading: Anti-Street-Standing, Panhandling Resolutions Draw RI ACLU Criticism9-6-2017_council_docket