The Augusta City Council will soon vote on the proposed aggressive solicitation ordinance. The ordinance, copied and pasted from the city of Bangor, has been proposed in response to the frustration expressed by a few downtown business owners, mostly involving one individual.

While the City Councilors debated the constitutionality of the ordinance, some missed the biggest point: this ordinance lacks compassion. Are we, as a community, going to impose $100 civil penalties on cost-burdened individuals? If a person feels unsafe walking downtown, they can call the Augusta Police Department. The police chief has made that clear.

The police chief, as well as the assistant city manager, also commented that the city of Lewiston and the city of Bangor hardly use this ordinance, even though it’s on the books. Why give the Augusta Police Department a tool they will rarely use? Besides, while the Department continues to try and fill six vacancies, are we going to ask it to chase down individuals who fail to show up in court or pay their fines?

Recently, Courtney Yeager with the United Way of Kennebec Valley presented the ALICE Report to the City Council. During the presentation, Courtney shared that 59% of Augusta residents are Asset-Limited, Income-Constrained, and Employed (ALICE). Augusta is a service center, so these numbers make sense.

What does not make sense is a new ordinance that will impose fines on individuals who are asking for help. If the new ordinance passes, it might even prevent all people from asking for assistance, no matter how they ask for it.

The City Council needs to reject this ordinance and concentrate its efforts on affordable housing, infrastructure improvements, and service deliveries.

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Augusta will remain a service center, people will continue to seek help here, and we will continue to provide it.

 

Sam Baker

Augusta

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