MOSES LAKE - “I think our citizens are expecting us to do something and I think this is a beginning,” Mayor Karen Liebrecht said prior to the Moses Lake City Council passing an ordinance Tuesday banning camping in open public spaces during the day.
The ordinance, which was voted down in December, was approved during Tuesday’s meeting by a 6-1 vote, effectively banning camping from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. The council previously approved an ordinance that outlawed camping in city parks and closed parks from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m.
Under the ordinance, camping is described as “to pitch, create, use or occupy camp facilities and/or to use camp paraphernalia.” Camp facilities include tents, huts, temporary shelters and vehicles. The ordinance does not restrict homeless individuals from sleeping in open public spaces as long as they are not using camping facilities or items such as beds, cots, sleeping bags or blankets.
Councilmember Dean Hankins, who was against the ordinance when it was presented in December, also voiced support Tuesday to make the change.
“Because we’re having such a problem in making any kind of progress in dealing with the homeless, this is a step in satisfying the citizens’ desire for change,” Hankins said. “I personally don’t think it’s enough and I don’t think it was necessarily the step I would’ve chosen but not being to do anything else at this time, I’m ready to support it.”
A section of the camping ordinance that would have allowed the city to issue civil fines for violators was removed by the council. It’s unclear what enforcement action the city can take if someone refuses to follow the camping ordinance as the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has already ruled in the Boise case that city’s cannot criminally prosecute the homeless for sleeping in public spaces if a shelter is not provided. The next step in the Boise case would be the Supreme Court.
Councilmember Ryann Leonard was the lone ‘no’ vote for the ordinance.
The camping ordinance goes into effect five days after its publication.