Saratoga stands up against sidewalk sitting ban

Last week, the City Council in Saratoga Springs, NY passed a law that makes it illegal for a person to sit on a sidewalk. The law is largely speculated to be a move against the few Saratoga residents who aren’t placing a bet at the racetrack or sipping martinis at a Broadway bar –it’s for the homeless.

And while it’s true that the classy, upstate city does have a few notable homeless hangouts, it’s also got a lot of drunk girls sitting spread eagle eating doughboys on the sidewalk at 2AM. Same problem, different groups of slightly unwanted individuals.

So the people of Saratoga are frustrated, saying the city is “better than that” to specifically target a group of low-to-no-income, displaced people with unfortunate circumstances. Passing the law seems like no way to help the homeless avoid addiction or get off the streets, but rather an opportunity to penalize them for crowding around the fancy downtown area.

The new law states that offenders would first get a warning, a first offense would run you $50 to $100 and additional offenses (within 24 hours) would add to about $500 or up to ten days in jail.

I mean, $500 could get me a seat in the coat closet at Hamilton. Priorities, people! But I just have to wonder if this is the biggest problem facing the city right now, and if this truly is the right solution. There’s been peaceful protests, a “sit-down” of sorts around the city and people speaking out that there’s got to be a better way to do this.

I’m not sure where I’m at on this issue. Have I been the doughboy girl? Yes. Have I been panhandled by a homeless person? Yes. Do I think the City Council might have some bigger issues to tackle before we ban sidewalk sitting? Mmmm…yes.

(Photo credit: News Channel 10)