June 6, 2007 - 9:00 pm
A proposed ordinance to restrict playground areas within Las Vegas parks to children and supervising adults was delayed on its way to the City Council.
On Tuesday, Las Vegas City Attorney Brad Jerbic asked the council’s recommending committee to table the controversial proposal for two to four weeks.
A lawsuit between the city and the ACLU of Nevada that relates to the power of the city to make playground designations might have a bearing on the issue, Jerbic said. Both parties have filed motions for summary judgment that will be heard Monday.
“The city has had the ability since 1969 to designate an entire park a children’s park,” Jerbic explained to the committee, after reading aloud the existing ordinance under fire by the ACLU.
The proposed ordinance would prohibit children over the age of 12 from playing in areas designated as children’s parks. It also makes it a misdemeanor offense for teenagers and adults to loiter within 100 feet of children’s play equipment.
Lee Rowland, staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada, questioned the wisdom of criminalizing behavior that might be accidental or unintentional. She also pointed out that the new ordinance could be used against the homeless, who might simply be sitting on a park bench near a play area.
“In reality, this bill is part of a larger effort by the city to reduce access to public parks,” Rowland wrote in a memo to the recommending committee, which included council members Lois Tarkanian and Steven Ross.
The proposal is supported by Chief Karen Coyne, director of Detention and Enforcement. Within the past two years, Coyne said, there have been 368 incidents where citations were issued for loitering in parks. That’s nearly one incident every other day in a place where young children are present.
Ross agreed, saying that the public needs to understand that the purpose of the ordinance is to increase public safety.
“It’s not about taking away someone’s rights,” Ross said. “It’s about protecting children.”
David Alfaro, who said he is homeless, questioned that, and asked Coyne to explain her statistics. How many of those loitering offenses involved a threat to children, he asked. The information was not immediately available.
“I think there hasn’t been a single kid affected,” Alfaro said.