Nelson council has deferred its decision on a proposed panhandling bylaw for a month. Mayor Deb Kozak opened the discussion of the bylaw at last night’s council meeting by stating that council had heard from many people about the bylaw since it was introduced at a council meeting on September 14.
The bylaw was to be given third reading last night, but Councillor Michael Dailly started the discussion by saying, “I am recommending we don’t give this a third reading. Panhandling season is coming to a close so it is not imperative that we do this right now. I think we should do this right and make sure there is proper community input. I would like to hear a recommendation from the committee on homelessness and broader community input as well.”
Councillors voted unanimously to put the decision off for a month and ask management staff to in the meantime figure out how to get more input, and it was suggested that the next committee of the whole meeting on October 26 would be a good place to hear from people. The monthly committee of the whole meetings are set up specifically to hear presentations from the public.
Mayor Deb Kozak said councillors could get their own input in the community because “all council members are connected through their portfolios to community. Councillor Morrison is with the economic development groups, we have councillor Dailly with the affordable housing committee, Councillor Cherbo is connected with seniors groups. . .”
Councillor Janice Morrison said she agrees with putting the decision off because, “I had some concerns around the wording.”
Councillor Anna Purcell agreed and said, “We should air it a bit more among ourselves and among the business groups and different social service groups in town. It feels like a big deal and it is happening fairly quickly.”
Kozak said she has even had a couple of people who used to live on the street tell her they were in favour of the bylaw, “so I am receiving comments right across the gamut.”
At the September 14 council meeting at which the bylaw was introduced and given first and second reading, it was reported that the bylaw was the idea of bylaw officers and the police, and driven by complaints from downtown merchants, although there was no mention of how many complaints and only one example was given of the exact nature of those complaints. At that meeting, no councillors expressed any need for more public input.
The proposed bylaw, prefaced by an explanation to council from management staff about some proposed changes from the version presented on September 14, is attached below.