An exclusion ordinance that would have allowed banning of individuals from city property was defeated when Talent Mayor Darby Ayers-Flood cast a tie-breaking vote.
Councilors Ken Baker, John Harrison and Ryan Pederson voted for the measure during the Oct. 18 City Council meeting. Councilors Emily Berlant, Stephanie Dolan and Daria Land voted against. The council had considered a version of the ordinance in May but took no action after a public outcry about the measure potentially infringing on constitutional rights and other shortcomings.
“I just can’t justify something that has so many issues inherent in the ordinance,” said Ayers-Flood.
A person could have been banned from city property for 30 days, with longer times for additional bad behavior. But a ban could have been stayed until a judge ruled on the conduct if an individual filed an appeal within 10 days of the exclusion notice.
Police Chief Curtis Whipple told the council that the ordinance would primarily be used against just a few individuals who cause disruptions in the city’s parks.
“It’s just bad policy,” said Derek Volkart, the only speaker during public comment on the proposal. He said the risk was massive when the action was in the hands of city staff rather than a judge.
“In my opinion that does not justify creation of a great burden for a citizen and the increased risk of abuses of an ordinance that would just be used once or twice,” said Volkart.
Peace officers would have been able to exclude individuals after giving a warning, without any type of due process. The version offered in May also gave that authority to the city manager and the public works director, but that language was deleted.
“It’s just another tool. I don’t see why we would say no to our citizens,” said Harrison. “I hope that it will not be abused. If it is abused, I’m sure we will find out because the citizens here are very vocal.”
Before the vote, Pederson successfully lobbied to eliminate a section that would have allowed exclusion for violations of the municipal code or city ordinances. He said the ordinance should be used for something that is a crime, such as heroin sales in a park.
“I don’t see how this ordinance is actually going to change behavior. We are addressing one or two people,” said Land. “Sure, they take a lot of time and investment. I’m struggling with how we actually change their behavior so that other citizens can feel safe.”
Dolan said she had concerns about the breadth of the ordinance and the potential constitutional issues it might raise.
“If the city allows the process set out in the draft ordinance, I believe the city will be providing adequate due process protections for those that are excluded from public buildings and parks under the ordinance,” the city attorney wrote in a memo to City Manager Tom Corrigan prior to the meeting.
— Tony Boom is an Ashland freelance writer. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.