The Ashland City Council has dropped the idea of adopting an exclusion zone that would have barred people who commit multiple crimes from the downtown.

The Ashland City Council has dropped the idea of adopting an exclusion zone that would have barred people who commit multiple crimes from the downtown.

Councilors decided to appoint a homeless task force which would gather input from satellite groups of various stakeholders, from business people to homeless people, about how to deal with homelessness issues.

The task force and satellite groups will explore a variety of ideas, such as setting up donation boxes downtown to discourage panhandling, to setting up a location where homeless people could camp legally.

Councilor Greg Lemhouse, who proposed that the council set aside the exclusion zone idea, said he didn't want the homelessness committee to have to grapple with the exclusion zone idea.

"I think the exclusion zone would do more harm than good," he said, before voting with the majority to drop the idea on Tuesday night.

Before the council's meeting on the topic, dozens of people marched in protest of a proposed exclusion zone.

The protest began on the downtown plaza on Tuesday evening and marchers walked to the City Council meeting room on East Main Street, then filled the building to overflowing. Most of the protesters were not homeless themselves.

Treasa Cordero Runzi and her 10-year-old daughter Isabella Moore, both Ashland residents, walked with a sign that read "City Sanctioned Profiling — Not In My Backyard."

"Some of the rules they are proposing and the punishment seems unjust," Cordero Runzi said. "It seems like they are targeting certain demographics. People shouldn't be excluded based on age or socioeconomic status. Rules should be fair and equal."

Much of the community discussion on homelessness has focused on young men who spend time panhandling downtown.

Moore said she is against the idea of an exclusion zone.

"I don't like that people are excluded. I don't think that's fair," she said.

People who committed violations such as drinking alcohol in public to making unnecessary noise could have been banned from downtown for 30 days. People who committed crimes ranging from disorderly conduct to rape could have been barred for 60 days.

Repeat offenders could have been barred for 180 days. An excluded person who went downtown could be arrested for trespassing and taken to jail in Medford.

Staff reporter Vickie Aldous can be reached at 541-479-8199 or vlaldous@yahoo.com.