Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Las Vegas "No Feeding" Ordinance Unconstitutionally Vague?

Earlier this year in my future home state of Nevada, the Las Vegas City Council was forced to address the ever increasing problems threatening their city parks. Homeless and indigent people began choking the city parks, which attracted well meaning "mobile soup kitchens" (vans full of hot meals doled out for free), which in turn attracted more homeless and indigent people to the parks. Crime correspondingly rose, and the tax paying residents of Las Vegas felt excluded from the parks they paid for. The City Council had to take action.

What they did was ban the feeding of the indigent in parks. Charities were still free to operate, but no organization was allowed to feed indigents unless they also provided services to address drug and alcohol use, mental illness, etc.

Apparently believing that attracting drug addicted transients to city parks where children should be playing was another fundamental right hidden away in the Constitution for some intrepid future explorer to discover, the ACLU filed suit against the city. Yesterday, a federal judge struck down the law, apparently because it was too vague.

The law reads in part:
The following are prohibited within any City park:...The providing of food or meals to the indigent for free or for a nominal fee. For purposes of this Paragraph, an indigent person is a person whom a reasonable ordinary person would believe to be entitled to apply for or receive assistance under NRS Chapter 428. L.V.M.C. 13.36.055(A)(6).
I think this law was poorly written, and have sympathy for the proposition that the reasonable person probably doesn't know what NRS Chapter 428 is, much less who is eligible to receive assistance under it.

But I think Las Vegas is doing the right thing. Not only is it better for the vagrants who need counseling more than they need a sandwich, but it's unimaginable that the Founding Fathers intended the federal Constitution to force a community to sit idly by while their parks degenerate into lawless tent cities.

And while I sympathize with the outcome reached by the ACLU, their agenda is profoundly disturbing. They were threatening to bring suit before the law was written. Clearly, the ACLU sued not to correct some vague wording, but because they want to force the community to pay for the vagrant hordes. Worse, their rhetoric implies that in the mind of the ACLU, being homeless is just as immutable of a trait as is race, as if there were no choices involved on the part of the vagrant. If the People choose to exercise their God-given liberty the ACLU purports to protect and extend the hand of charity via their tax dollars, that's fine. But to claim such a policy is Constitutionally mandated is absurd.

The real shame is that the city might have to ban all picnics altogether, or even shut down its parks if they continue to become unusable. Tyranny by the minority is no less insideous than that of the majority. It is in fact worse. In the time I've lived in this area, I've seen Seattle turned over to the ever-increasingly demanding panhandlers. Police create extra "jaywalking patrols" and strip club sting operations while ignoring the rampant crack dealing and vagrancy littering the King County Courthouse courtyard, because it's not PC to put a stop to it. Is this really the world the ACLU wants? If so, as a future Nevadan I exhort them to go live in their Seattle socialist paradise and leave the citizenry of the Silver State alone.

Here's hoping Vegas cleans up their ordinance, and remains serious about enforcing it. The Constitution should not force any city to be held hostage by aggressive indigents and their activist enablers.

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